Declaration of epikrisis


  1. Declaration
  2. Abstract from the registers of epikrisis
  3. Summary of epikrisis

The process of verification of privileged civil status in Roman Egypt was called ἐπίκρισις. Those who belonged to various exclusive groups, such as metropolites (inhabitants from the nome capitals), ephebes (boys who became active citizens) and members of the gymnasium (where youths received a Greek education), or Roman citizens, had to apply for verification – and formal confirmation – of their status by submitting a declaration. In other rare cases, this also applied to holders of catoecic land (κάτοικοι), priests, and members of a privileged group of elders (γερουσία).


Status declarations were made on behalf of male members of the family, normally by their parents, before the boy’s thirteenth birthday, in order to secure exemption from – or reduction of – poll tax. Whereas the word ἐπίκρισις applies to a process of verification, the rarer form εἴσκρισις apparently designated the admission of individuals into a privileged group, in particular that of ephebes [15625 58 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 23581 60 CE, Hermopolis]. The two procedures seem to be closely associated.


Copies of declarations were kept in the public records and pasted together to form a roll (τόμος συγκολλήσιμος) [15744; 15749 both 148-149 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. It was possible for individuals to obtain an abstract from the roll if the need arose to produce proof of a successful epikrisis [Epikrisis abstract]; see also [9597 234-235 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]. Summaries of epikrisis were also issued for soldiers after they had received their honourable discharge [Epikrisis summary].



Declarations for epikrisis are attested from the I-III CE. Metropolite declarations come from the Arsinoite and Oxyrhynchite nomes, with a few additions from the Herakleopolite and Hermopolite nomes. Declarations for membership of the gymnasium are found only in Hermopolis and Oxyrhynchus; admission seems restricted to a limited number of metropolites. Holders of catoecic land who submit to epikrisis appear only in the Arsinoite nome.


Most declarations relate to the status of metropolite; for the epikrisis of Roman citizens, we do not have the original declarations, but only abstracts from the registers of epikrisis [Epikrisis abstract]. The general structure is uniform, although some declarations display minor differences from one nome to another:

  • Opening, in the form of a ὑπόμνημα [to name <dat.>] [from παρά name <gen.>].
    • Mention of the addressee is sometimes omitted [78617 189 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 12900 167 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]. In the Arsinoite nome, the addressees of declarations for metropolites are usually ex-gymnasiarchs, and their role as members of the epikrisis commission finds mention through the wording τοῖς πρὸς τῇ ἐπικρίσει, or ἐπικριταῖς. In the Oxyrhynchite nome, various officials such as the strategos, royal scribe, etc. are involved in declarations for metropolites or members of the gymnasium; see [Nelson 1979 : 16].
    • The declarant normally provides the names of his father and mother, specifying his metropolite status (Ars.: τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς μητροπόλεως ἀναγραφομένου ἐπ’ ἀμφόδου X ‘from the metropolis, registered in quarter X’; Oxy.: ἀπ’ Ὀξυρύγχων πόλεως ‘from the City of Oxyrhynchites’).
  • Justification for submitting an individual to epikrisis, with three key elements:
    • The name of the person to be examined. When the declaration is made for the status of metropolite, the applicant indicates that his son has reached his thirteenth birthday (or an age close to thirteen).
    • Reference to the ruling – presumably a praefect’s ordinance – that makes examination necessary, e.g. [78617 l.3-4] κατὰ τὰ κελευσθέντα περὶ ἐπικρίσεως ‘according to the orders regarding selection’.
    • Credentials. In the case of membership to the gymnasium, credentials may be quite extensive and include the ancestry of both parents back to 4/5 CE, when the original list of members of the gymnasium was presumably established, under the reign of Augustus [19301 269 CE, Oxyrhynchus].
  • Closing. The concluding part of the declaration contains the official’s signature and a [date@end]; sometimes also the applicant’s signature [20324 l.41-42, 86 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 12900 l.16] and an oath [78617 l.35-36].


In accordance with the usual format of declarations submitted as ὑπομνήματα, the writing of declarations for epikrisis follows the direction of fibres. Since the scribes who produced those declarations were presumably hired by the applicants, they had few constraints on page size. This may explain the fact that various shapes are attested, ranging from horizontal [11217 148 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 22165 260 CE, Oxyrhynchus] to squarish [11333141 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 12899 134 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis], and also long, narrow strips of papyrus [20324 86 CE; 21853 127-128 CE; 78617 189 CE, all Oxyrhynchus], typical of documents from Oxyrhynchus such as [private protocol]. When declarations were assembled into a τόμος συγκολλήσιμος, this could produce a roll of uneven height [15744].


Applicants resorted to the services of scribes with various degrees of proficiency. Whereas some declarations display a rather plain appearance [9055 166-167 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 23483 172-173 CE, Oxyrhynchus], others were produced with great care [11216 187 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 22165]. The latter may be due to the fact that confirmation of a youth’s membership in a privileged group was an important event among some metropolite families. This is also indicated by the evidence of [invitations] to epikrisis celebrations [30389 III CE, Oxyrhynchus].


The declaration is usually written in one block of text, but scribes can also opt for a layout that highlights some important parts of the text. For example, the addressee may be detached from the main text through the insertion of a space [8883 121 CE, Arsinoite nome]. In a more elaborate layout [9055], a first block of three lines is marked by an alternance of ekthesis and eisthesis: several ex-gymnasiarchs who serve as members of the examination commission are listed in this part. This is followed by the declaration (starting with the applicant’s name, introduced by παρά with an oversize π); for another case of oversize π, see [11217]. In [11216], the scribe wrote the main text in one block, then left a blank window before adding the date; the style of his handwriting is very elaborate. The window was later used to insert the official’s signature (as in other declarations such as [libelli], [Schubert 2018b]), in a distinctive sloping hand; finally, the unused space in the window was filled with crosses. In another case, the signature and date are in the same hand [11217].


An Oxyrhynchite declaration [20324] bears a large X in the upper margin, “presumably some official mark” according to Arthur Hunt in the editio princeps; the same mark appears also in [21853], as well as in [21913 119 CE, Oxyrhynchus] (a census return). It may have a purpose of control or classification similar to παρε(τέθη) found at the top of [23483] and of [11230 170 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos], a declaration for the delivery of cloth on the occasion of the apotheosis of Apis.

Abstract from the registers of epikrisis


An abstract is an official copy made from a register. After members of privileged categories of the population in Roman Egypt had undergone ἐπίκρισις, i.e. examination and confirmation of their civic status [Epikrisis declaration], an abstract could be delivered to them consisting of a copy of the corresponding declaration that had been registered in a record office. This could be used to confirm their status if required, notably in order to pass it on to the next generation. One conspicuous feature of these abstracts is the use of red ink, either to copy or to correct the abstract.


Several abstracts from the rolls of epikrisis for Roman citizenship are preserved from the II CE, originating mostly from the Arsinoite nome [10715 143-161 CE], but also from Oxyrhynchus [21852 175 CE] or Syene [17877 after 161 CE]. Other abstracts pertain to the epikrisis of ephebes in Antinoopolis (from 130 CE to the early III CE) [15716 after 217 CE].

Roman Citizens

Before the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 CE, there were relatively few Roman citizens in Egypt. Veterans and their descendants, together with a few freedmen, freedwomen, and slaves (who followed the civic status of their patron or master), constitute the bulk of Roman citizens appearing in papyri in the I and II CE. Their special status – which entails exemption from poll tax – was examined and confirmed, by the process of epikrisis, an examination process that required a declaration by the applicant. Roman citizens in Egypt were placed under the direct authority of the Praefect of Egypt. Therefore, epikrisis of Roman citizens, although by and large similar to the process of epikrisis on behalf of metropolites, members of the gymnasium, or ephebes at the nome level [Epikrisis declaration], was supervised directly by the Praefect of Egypt, by delegation to one of his officers.


We do not possess the original applications, but several abstracts from the Praefect of Egypt’s records are preserved [14014 188 CE, Karanis; 13977 148 CE, Theadelphia]. They consist of the following sections:

  • A heading, indicating the provenance of the abstract and introducing the register’s title ἐκ τόμου ἐπικρίσεων + Praefect’s name + οὗ παρεπιγραφή / παρεπιγραφή ‘from the register of epikrisis of Praefect X, of which the initial label / additional label in the margin (is)...’ [14014, l.1].
  • The προγραφή or παρεπιγραφή proper, i.e. the title of the list, mentioning the Praefect and his delegate, as well as the period covered by the list.
  • A reference to the precise location in the list (column number), e.g. [14014, l.6] σελίδ(ων) α ‘column 1’.
  • A copy of the declaration, stating the declarant’s identity, his reason for submitting the declaration, the identity of the persons whose status should be confirmed (sometimes himself, otherwise children, slaves etc.), the credentials on which the declaration rests, a list of witnesses and an identification of the person whose status is to be confirmed.
  • A filing note may be added, with a [date@end].


The amount of information provided in the abstracts being quite extensive, the size of the documents is often correspondingly large [e.g. 20195 II CE; 19293 166-167 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. There is no recognizable pattern in format or layout, but some abstracts were obviously produced by skilled scribes, who made use of various devices to embellish the documents, notably a sophisticated writing style, enlarged initial letters and ekthesis [20195; 11380 123-1138 CE, Arsinoite nome(?); 9343 155-159 CE, Arsinoite nome]. Ekthesis can also be combined with a mediocre writing style [14810 after 161 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis]. The most conspicuous aspect of these abstracts lies in the use of red ink, either for the whole text [11379 117 CE, Arsinoite nome; 20195; 9438 after 173 CE, Arsinoite nome], or for corrections [18492 after 117 CE] or additions [14014].


Citizenship of Antinoopolis (founded in 130 CE with the exceptional civic structure of a Greek polis) entailed many privileges; boys were subject to a process of epikrisis before entering the category of ephebes [Zahrnt 1988 : 690-701]. Abstracts from the registers could be provided to those who needed to confirm their status and pass it on to the next generation.


Abstracts were prepared with care by skilled scribes, who used red ink (indicating an abstract) and framed the text with crosses (to prevent additions) [14017 180-230 CE, Karanis].

Summary of epikrisis


Besides the long abstracts from the Praefect’s records registering the epikrisis of Roman citizens [Epikrisis abstract], short notes were also produced, containing the essential elements of the epikrisis to which veterans had submitted after their honourable discharge (honesta missio). Contrary to the extended abstracts, these were small, hastily written slips of papyrus [20322 138-161 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 20198; 20199 both 159 CE]. They indicated the name of the discharged soldier, the identity of the officier who had performed the epikrisis, and the regnal year. We do not know what was the exact purpose of these slips: it seems hardly likely that they were sufficient proof of citizenship; rather, they must have helped either soldiers or officials to track a given epikrisis record in the registers. Then a proper abstract could be produced.


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Declaration of Epikrisis. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:jtklsdllmffv5eopnotdbxvsyi