Business Note


  1. Ptolemaic Business Notes
  2. Roman Business Notes
  3. Business Notes from the Heroninus archive

Business notes may be defined as short communications which usually concern the management of an estate or some official business. They are often referred to as letters, and while they can have a similar content to some business or official letters, they are not as formally structured. There is a wide chronological range.

Ptolemaic Business Notes


Most of the Ptolemaic period business notes come from the Zenon archive [TM Arch 256] (III BCE) and concern the running of the estate of Apollonios. The main characteristic of these notes is the opening formula presented as a hypomnema and indeed they are explicitly designated as such – hence business notes may also be called memoranda in the literature. The majority are short and to the point, giving instructions [834 255 BCE, Memphite nome, to measure land], or making everyday requests [2150 III BCE, Theadelphia, a request for provisions], but there are also longer examples [1945 III BCE, Theadelphia, a note on work in the orchards]. On business notes in the Ptolemaic period cf. [Baetens 2020 : 76-84 and 139-141].


Ptolemaic business notes open with [ὑπόμνημα to name <dat.>][from παρά + name <gen.>] [708 III BCE, Alexandria] or [ὑπόμνημα from παρά + name <gen.>][to name <dat.>] [1967 c.242 BCE, Arsinoite nome]. There is no opening greeting (χαίρειν).


The opening formula can be shortened to either [ὑπόμνημα from παρά + name <gen.>] with no addressee [834, where the sender’s name is repeated on the back, along with the date; 1048 256-248 BCE, Arsinoite nome]; or [ὑπόμνημα to name <dat.>] with no addressor added [2095; 2108; both III BCE, Philadelphia].


One example places the designation between the addressee and addressor [to name <dat.>][ὑπόμνημα][from παρά + name <gen.>] [1127 III BCE, Philadelphia] and is reminiscent of the opening address found in an enteuxis, see [enteuxis]. Another note opens simply with [ὑπόμνημα] and no named addressor or addressee [1284 mid-III BCE].


There is often a closing salutation [3215 III BCE, Arsinoite nome; 2092, 1132 both III BCE, Philadelphia: εὐτύχει; 945 250 BCE, Philadelphia: [ἔρρωσο]]. A [date] is rare [1027 254-251 BCE, Arsinoite nome; 1945].


Later III – II BCE business notes drop the opening [ὑπόμνημα] in favour of [to name <dat.>][from παρά + name <gen.>] [7423 221-205 BCE, Arsinoite nome] or [from παρά + name <gen.>][to name <dat.>] [1026 III BCE]. A closing greeting is also common [5856 223-222 BCE, Apollonopolite nome, εὐτύχει].


There are also examples of the shortened opening without the [ὑπόμνημα] designation: [to name <dat.>] [703006; 703007, III BCE, two orders to pay]; [29437 II BCE, Herakleopolite nome, an order to supply prisoners] or [from παρά + name <gen.>] [412060 III BCE, Arsinoite nome, an order for food supplies] with a final [ἔρρωσο].


Business notes from the Ptolemaic period were drafted in pagina format, the writing along horizontal fibres [2155 258-257 BCE, Philadelphia; 1280] or against vertical fibres [7423; 1132]; in transversa charta format [945], or with this orientation and horizontal fibres [1079 III BCE, Philadelphia; 708]; or squarish [834; 1096 III BCE, Alexandria (?), (both with horizontal fibres)]. The height of some sheets is above average – a long complaint against a carpet weaver [1122 III BCE, Philadelphia] (H.40 x W.16.5cm), a report of payments [818 256-255 BCE, Arsinoite nome] (H.39.5 x W.16.5cm), and a report on the delivery of some livestock [1048] (H.38 x W.10cm); another sheet is written transversa charta on a sheet cut from a roll of similar height [945] (H.15 x W.32.5cm).


Many of the business notes from the Zenon archive are written as a single block of text with no distinguishing features [708; 1027]; if there is a closing salutation it is indented [3215; 1122], or written towards the end of the line [1079]. One document has a very large final greeting [1132]. Paragraphoi can serve to separate points in the text [1132; 2155; 1945]. A document concerning the building of an enclosure for pigs contains a drawing of the proposed construction: [1983 III BCE, Theadelphia]. Another business note was drawn up as a double document [1612 III BCE]. Some notes were written with a brush instead of a pen [951 250 BCE, Koitai; 43303 265/227 BCE].

Roman Business Notes


Few business notes survive from the early Roman period, but among the sixty or so letters in the Athenodoros archive [TM Arch 26] [21/20 BCE - 5CE, Herkleopolite nome], two communications fall into this category: [23386 7-4 BCE] where Athenodoros complains to the strategos about obstruction by a tax official; and [23328 7-4 BCE] where he (subsequently?) addresses the Prefect and requests that he order payments to be made by the same tax official.


Documents from the II CE also carry the familiar hypomnema opening, e.g. [13498 140-141 CE, Arsinoite nome, a notification of grain requirement for a village; 14139 187 CE, Bacchias, a cover note for a temple list]. Examples from the III CE are more numerous, [128900 247-257 CE, a request to supply wheat; 21932 265 CE, an order to a poultry-dealer; 30768 III CE, an order to supply fruit (all Oxyrhynchus); 22671 206/235 CE, a delivery order].


Surviving notes from official sources are mostly orders from the strategos to other officials [30431 III CE, Prosopite nome; 31224, 31741, both III CE, Oxyrhynchus].


Other III CE examples include orders to pay which are not drawn up as letters, e.g. to a banker [21883 229 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 78846 mid-III CE], or to pay individuals [700722 262 CE, payment of wages; 43185 c.271 CE, Arsinoite nome, order to pay shepherds], cf. [order to pay].


Documents may also carry a shortened opening: [from παρά + name <gen.>] and place the addressee [to name <dat.>] after the main text [31761 III CE, Oxyrhynchus; 32143 III CE, Arsinoite nome; 700722 262 CE]; or open with the addressee [to name <dat.>] placing the addressor [from παρά + name <gen.>] after the main text [27203 II-III CE, Oxyrhynchus]; however many business notes were drawn up without the sender’s name [26876 II-III CE; 21883 229 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 31655 end III CE, Oxyrhynchus].


A signature [σεσημείωμαι / ἐσημειωσάμην] ‘I have signed / I signed’ may be added along with a [date] in many cases [22671; 15993 271 CE, Oxyrhynchus]; or there can be a signature and no date [30431; 31752 III CE, Oxyrhynchus]; or the date only [30768; 128900].


There can be a closing salutation [ἐρρῶσθαί σε εὔχομαι] [31721 III CE, Oxyrhynchus]. There are also documents with none of these [26876; 32143; 31655].


Some III CE orders to pay display a hybrid construction with a hypomnema opening [from παρά + name <gen.>][to name <dat.>] followed immediately by the epistolary greeting [χαίρειν], e.g. [16336 261/312 CE; 30213 III CE], see [order to pay].


Examples from the Roman period are found on vertical sheets with horizontal fibres (pagina format) [14141 204 CE, Bacchias; 30431], on horizontal sheets with vertical fibres (transversa charta format) [30768; 15993 271 CE, Oxyrhynchus], on horizontal sheets with horizontal fibres [128900], and squarish sheets with horizontal fibres [78846] or with vertical fibres [31312 III CE, Oxyrhynchus]. These tend to be written on sheets of papyrus smaller than the Ptolemaic examples – see for instance two official orders [26876] (H.11 x W.10.6cm) and [30431] (H.10.2 x W.8.2cm); an order to a banker [78846] (H.5.3 x W.5.7cm) and an order to deliver fruit [30768] (H.6 x W.8.5cm). One document is tall and narrow [31655] (H.26 x W.7cm).


Business notes with an initial παρά tend to abbreviate it simply as π [30431; 31224; 31761]. There may be a window allowing the addition of a signature [22671], or it may simply be added to the end of the text [31224]. The scribe of one document ran out of space and completed the sender’s name in the margin [31655].

Business Notes from the Heroninus archive


There survives a cache of business notes in the archives of the estate of Appianus, many from the records of one of his managers Heroninus [TM Arch 103] (archive dated 249-268 CE). A survey of the images available in [P.Flor. II : 66-252] show that these documents display a mostly uniform structure where the scribes clearly appear to have worked from a model. They consist often of short notes on a variety of subjects, orders [12981 262 CE, to supply provisions for a hunt; 12880 263 CE, to feed cattle], reports [12881 257 CE, a report on canal work] and general estate business [10972 254 CE; 10976 261 CE].


The addressor and addressee of the opening address are separated and placed at either end of the text: the notes open with [from παρά + name <gen.>] and close with [to name <dat.>], followed by the [date] [12981; 12880; 10984 257 CE].


The business notes are laid out on the sheet in a mostly homogenous fashion with the opening παρά always abbreviated. The use of windows between the end of the main text and the date, allowed for a note of validation, often in another hand, by way of a signature [σεσημείωμαι / ἐσημειωσάμην], together with a short greeting, [ἐρρῶσθαί σε εὔχομαι] [11010 257 CE; 10997 264 CE]. On some of these documents a seal has survived [14239 250-261 CE; 14240 266 CE].


There is a discernible resemblance between the III CE business note and the warrant of the same period as the latter evolved to become more characteristic of the short notes produced by the private scribes of an estate, e.g. [32795 end III CE, Philadelphia ]; cf. [warrant] and [Schubert 2018a : 269-273].


For a comparison of the structures of the Ptolemaic hypomnema and the business note of the Heroninus archive see [Schubert 2018b]. An overview of the Heroninus archive can be found in [Rathbone 1991 : 6-14]; on the administration of the Appianus estate and the communications therein, see [Rathbone 1991 : 59-68].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Business Note. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:xhv3nirtjbfp3jtip73usuv3jm