Proposal to Contract


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

Contracts in the form of a hypomnema became the most common way to draw up a lease agreement between two private parties during the Roman period [Yiftach-Firanko 2007 : 1051]. These contracts could be formulated as an [undertaking] to contract, or as a proposal to contract.


The proposal to contract was an application by the addressor to the addressee to enter into an agreement drawn up in the style of a formal request [Wolff 1978b : 114]. This formulation was used, though not universally, between parties of unequal status; with land lease agreements the opening address may include the agent of the landowner rather than the landowner themselves – for example, applications were made to two female landowners through their agents [9256 168 CE;9087 186 CE, both Arsnoite nome], and so also to a high status male Alexandrian [13660 270 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis] [Wolff 1978b : 119].


Because it did not require the involvement of a notary and registration in the grapheion, the document could be quickly drawn up, and this was particularly useful in the leasing of the harvesting of dates, olives, and other time-sensitive crops [Yiftach-Firanko 2007 : 1055-1057].


The proposal to contract was the most popular means of drawing up lease agreements for land [9087], crops [9256], or buildings [13660]. It was also favoured for applications for industrial concessions, e.g. the right to control weaving in a village [13010 172 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]. Contracts for the hiring of performing artists are drawn up from the perspective of the person hiring rather than as a request by the artist for employment, e.g. the hiring of dancers to perform at a festival [10609 206 CE, Philadelphia] – the latter document can be contrasted with a contract of similar content but in the form of a [cheirographon] where the chief musician sends his agreement to perform [29451 III CE, Philadelphia]. On contracts for the engagement of musicians see the texts collected by [Vandoni 1964], and see also [Hengstl 1972].


The proposal to contract was in use from the late I BCE [13019 8 BCE, Arsinoite nome] into the Byzantine period and remained one of a range of contracting options alongside the [private protocol], [syngraphe], and the [cheirographon]. Although most examples have been found in the Arsinoite nome, others have been found in the Hermopolite, Panopolite, and other nomes, see [Wolff 1978b : 118, n.55].



The contract opens with the standard hypomnematic address:


[to name <dat>][from παρά name <gen>] and follows with the verb [βούλομαι + an infinitive] – for lease agreements this is βούλομαι μισθώσασθαι ‘I wish to lease’; these documents can be referred to as hypomnematic misthoseis [Wolff 1978b : 118] or lease hypomnemata [Yiftach-Firanko 2007 : 1051] to distinguish them from lease agreements drawn up in the form of a [syngraphe]. Proposals to lease land addressed to the landowner through an agent add the agent’s name [through διά name <gen.>] φροντιστοῦ [9256].


In applications for the lease of a monopoly the opening address can be followed with βούλομαι μισθώσασθαι [11670 88 CE, Arsinoite nome] or with βούλομαι ἐπιχωρηθῆναι παρʼ ὑμῶν ‘I wish to be granted by you’ [12293 183 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]; this can be extended to βούλομαι ἑκουσίως καὶ αὐθαιρέτως ἐπιχωρηθῆναι ‘I freely and voluntarily wish to be granted’ [10261 159 CE, Philadelphia].


Work contracts have the request βούλομαι ἐκλαβεῖν (ἔργα) ‘I wish to undertake (work)’, e.g. [22553 208 CE, Oxyrhynchus] an offer to work on Trajan’s canal, or [15463 263 CE, Antinoopolis] a very detailed proposal for gilding work on a ceiling. Requests to hire performing artists have βούλομαι παραλαβεῖν σε ‘I wish to engage you’ [10609 (dancers); 11712 165 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos (a flute-player)].


A brief description of the prospective lessee may be added after the main text [10115 l.25, 159 CE, Arsinoite nome]. There can also be a subscription by the lessor signifying his acceptance of the proposal [10593 l.30-33, 119 CE; 8991 l.24-25, 151 CE, both Arsinoite nome]. The [date@end] invariably follows.



As most of the evidence for proposals to contract come from the Roman period, almost all of the complete examples are in pagina format with the writing along horizontal fibres. Some of these, although of a standard height, can be quite narrow [11712 (H. 23.1 x W. 7cm); 9256 (H. 22 x W. 7 cm)]. A contract from Hermopolis is more broad than long (H. 13.1 x W. 20.7cm) with horizontal fibres [22846 121 CE]; another from the Arsinoite nome has unusually long lines [14026 254 CE (H.17.1 x W. 33.8)].



The layout appears to be fairly uniform with a clear separation between the addressee and the addressor - a few visual techniques aid this separation: the παρά clause always begins a new line [9296; 10117 181 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]; the first line and the παρά clause may be presented in ekthesis to the rest of the text [9861 218 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos; 10115]; the second and third lines of the addressee are often indented before the παρά clause [11693 149 CE, Arsinoite nome; 10756 195 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]; or there can be a clear space between the addressee and addressor [11406 103 CE, Euhemeria; 11712]. After the main text there is a space before any subscription, and between the subscription and date, with the use of ekthesis or eisthesis also evident [9296; 11652 94 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]. Sometimes the space between the main text and date can be wide, presumably for the addition of a subscription by the addressee [9853 212 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos; 10609]; in one document the absence of a window meant the addressee had to squeeze his consent between the lines [15027 l.31-32, 261 CE, Arsinoite nome]. One document begins the contract halfway down the sheet of papyrus [22848 152 CE, Hermopolis]. The script can be cursive [22846], neat and regular [11652], or cramped [11731 212 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]; one is particularly florid [11693]. Some slow hands can be seen in the subscriptions [9256; 11715 166/7-198/9 CE, Arsinoite nome].


The proposal for gilding work runs to two columns [15463]. Seven agreements for the leasing of various houses and land were pasted together into a τόμος συνκολλήσιμος (H. 21 x W. 63cm) in a private clerk’s office [1490 -1496 144 CE, Arsinoite nome], see [Omar 1983].


One document finishes with an x-type filler at the end of the text, after the subscription [16790].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Proposal to Contract. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:6nz2cjm6tnehnnpn4oy6yoguia