Camel Declaration


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

In Roman Egypt ownership of camels, goats, and sheep had to be declared annually so they could be taxed. There are 47 camel declarations published to date, all from the II-III CE, and most from Soknopaiou Nesos in the Arsinoite nome. See [Kruse 2002]; also [Adams 2007 : 124-127], and [Hagedorn 2018]. For a complete list of edited camel declarations, [Hagedorn 2018 : 137, n. 1].



As a formal declaration made by an individual to an official, the structure is that of a standard ὑπόμνημα. A distinguishing feature of this particular type of declaration is a note or [docket] at the top of the sheet, separated from the main text, which gives a brief summary of the contents, e.g. Σοκνοπ(αίου Νήσου). κάμηλ(οι) γ. [9075 l.1, 137 CE].


Camel declarations were always addressed to the strategos and royal scribe and began with a formal address to these officials, followed by the name of the declarant [to officials <dat.>] [from παρά + name <gen.>] along with the declarant’s patronymic and place of origin or residence. A reference to the declaration of the previous year is followed by a statement of the number of camels now owned, enumerating births, deaths, and sales since the last declaration, ἀφʼ ὧν ἀπεγρ(αψάμην)...... ἀπογράφομαι, ‘out of those (previously) registered...I (now) register...’, e.g. [9097 l.6-14, 145 CE; 9081 l.10-18, 151 CE].


The formal declaration ends here and a series of subscriptions is appended where the declaration is registered at the office of the royal scribe, and the number of animals counted and confirmed by different assistants. The first subscription is usually that of the registrar who states that the number of camels has been entered into the register (ἀπεγράφησαν or κατεχωρίσθησαν), and this is followed by the date: sometimes the full date e.g. [9075 l.17-18; 14057 l.12-13, 143 CE] but more usually only the month and day. The remaining subscriptions confirm the declaration, e.g. [14057 l.14-17] where there are a further four hands: l.17 ἐξηρ(ιθμήθησαν) [κά]μ[η]λ(οι) συμφ(ώνως) β ‘I have counted and confirm 2 camels’. Each of these is followed by the month and day of the signature.


In another type of camel declaration the owner states a decrease in his herd of camels, either by death or sale, and asks that they be removed from the register, presumably so he will no longer be liable for tax, e.g. [15141 144 CE; 9130 163 CE]. This ἀπολογισμός is addressed to the royal scribe only, followed by a statement of the situation, and a request for an amendment, οὐκέτι ὑ[πάρχ]ει μοι κάμηλος, ἐπιδίδ[ω]μ̣ι τὸν ἀπολογισμόν ‘I no longer own the camel and so I make this statement’ [14648 l.9-11, 162 CE].



The format of camel declarations follows the model found in other declaration types [census, libellus (pagan sacrifice), notification of death], i.e. the shape of the document corresponds to the pagina standard, with the scribe writing along the horizontal fibres [9075; 9081; 9097]. There can be a wide bottom margin as space was left for the addition of the subscriptions [913010.3cm; 9081 6.8cm].



After the summarizing docket, which takes the form of a heading, the address to the officials can be indented from its second line up to the παρά clause, itself beginning its own line and often distinguished by an enlarged first letter [9075; 14057]. The body of the text forms one block, with spaces and indents between the different hands of the subscriptions [9097; 14407]. A line can sometimes separate the body of the text from the subscriptions [15074], but this does not seem to appear as routinely as in other declarations (e.g. notification of death [§6]).


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Camel Declaration. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:e4zlypmfsjcxxkhqkiykija4fi