Declaration of Uninundated Land (ἄβροχος)


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

The annual flood of the Nile, backed up by irrigation systems, dykes, dams, and essential maintenance (see [Penthemeros receipts]), ensured a fertile soil for the growing of essential crops; on the administration of the Nile in the Greco-Roman period see [Bonneau 1964; Bonneau 1971; Bonneau 1993]. However, despite all these efforts, often the flood water was too low to reach some land and it remained infertile and unproductive through no fault of the farmer. Land of this kind was referred to as abrochos (ἄβροχος), uninundated.


The first evidence of a process whereby a farmer could declare his land to be abrochos and claim a reduction in tax payments appears during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE). The work of reference for this type of document is [Habermann 1997], see also [Gonis 2003 : 171] for further references, and especially [Rowlandson 1996 : 16, 77]. The declarations often included references to land that was uninundated and artificially irrigated – for a list see [Habermann 1997 : 223-226] with [Gonis 1999]. The earliest example dates from 158 CE [12741, Philadelphia]; the latest is from 245 CE [78590, Oxyrhynchus] and it seems these declarations disappeared after administrative reforms under Philip the Arab (244-249 CE). Most examples have been found in the Arsinoite and Oxyrhynchite nomes.



As a formal declaration the heading is in the form of a ὑπόμνημα [to name <dat.>] [from παρά name <gen.>] and is addressed to the official(s) who had responsibility for the declarations at different times, e.g. komogrammateus [12741; 16445 245 CE, Oxyrhynchus], sometimes together with the basilikogrammateus [13483; 15174, both 208 CE, Tebtunis], and the basilikogrammateus and strategos [14615 167-8 CE, Bacchias; 15146 189-90 CE, Philadelphia] [Habermann 1997 : 235-236]. Some with no addressee simply begin [from παρά name <gen.>] [8959 163 CE, Karanis]. The declarant can be an individual, whose patromymic and place of origin or residence is usually stated, e.g. [44381 201 CE, Apias], or a group of individuals making a collective declaration, e.g. [10221 164 CE, Lagis]; see [Habermann 1997 : 239-249].


The main text follows with a reference to the original order by the prefect, κατὰ τὰ κελευσθέντα ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡγεμόνος, e.g. [12741; 10221], and later by the κρατίστου ἐπιτρόπου περὶ ἀβρόχου καὶ ἐπηντλημένης, ‘the procurator for uninundated and artificially irrigated land’, e.g. [22268 203-4 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 44381], and details the number of arourai and location of the land to be declared abrochos. A formal statement, διὸ ἐπιδίδωμι τὴν ἀπογραφήν, ‘therefore I make the declaration’, may be added, e.g. [13753 169 CE, Arsinoite].


The [date@end] comes before the subscription where one or more official signed the declaration, see [Habermann 1997 : 227-234]. In the collective declaration [10221] each of the declarants who could write makes a formal statement in their own hand, συνεπιδέδωκα, before the date.



The format of abrochia declarations follows the model found in other variations of the sub-type Declaration, i.e. the shape of the document corresponds to the pagina standard, with the scribe writing along horizontal fibres. [10221] is more squarish in format as it must accommodate two columns of names. An exceptionally long papyrus makes up the declaration made by a wealthy woman from Oxyrhynchus [16445] who lists over 1,700 arouras spread over a wide area.



The document often begins with an enlarged first letter of the address to the official, the second line of which can be indented before the παρά clause, e.g. [14614 163-4 CE, Pelusion; 14615; 44381], and the παρά itself often distinguished by an enlarged first letter, e.g. [13483]; there can also be a space between the two elements of the address, e.g. [12741; 10221]. The body of the declaration is usually a single column of text [22268; 44381]. As can happen in letters with more than one column, the second of the two columns of [10221] is narrower than the previous one [Sarri 2018 : 112]. After the main text there is often a space between it and the subscription [8959] or between the text, and date and subscription [13483]; the subscription can also be indented [44381].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Declaration of Uninundated Land. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:6kakwu3ayvcsxgl6ndf7kxcege