Declaration of Death


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

A declaration of death formally notifies the administration of the death of a family member. The work of reference for this type of document is [Casarico 1985]. As outlined by Casarico, this document was part of the system of keeping track of those obliged to pay tax; the declarations concern deceased males only, specifically in order to ensure that their names were removed from the list of those required to pay tax [Casarico 1985 : 3-9]. The relationship between deceased and declarant can be familial, but declarations are also made upon the death of a slave [15658 78-79 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. In the majority of cases the declaration is made by a male relative, or slave owner, but in a few by a female and her guardian [12901 136 CE, Arsinoite nome].


There is a good chronological spread of examples from I-III CE, mostly from the Oxyrhynchite and Arsinoite nomes.



As a formal declaration made by an individual to an official, the structure is that of a standard ὑπόμνημα. This broadly this consists of:

  • The opening, [to official <dat>] [from παρά name <gen>], followed by the declarant’s patronymic, possibly their matronymic, place of origin or residence [21583 150 CE, Oxyrhynchite nome]. Later documents see the declaration begin with a consular [date@start] before the address to an official [78579 150 CE, Oxyrhynchite nome].
  • The declaration itself in which the name of the deceased is clearly stated along with the relationship to the declarant; in some examples there is more than one person included [15658, two slaves]; [9121 175-176 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis, three members of the same family]. At this point the tax status of the deceased is also established, whether
    • ἀφῆλιξ, i.e. under the age of 14 and not yet obliged to pay tax [13194 70 CE, Bakchias],
    • λαογραφούμενος, i.e. between the ages of 14-60 and registered to pay the tax in a particular village or town, τελ(ῶν) τὴν λαογρα(φίαν) ἐπὶ τῆς…κώμης [14408 48-49 CE, Philadelphia; 8802 185 CE, Ptolemais Hormou];
    • or ὑπερετής, i.e. one who was over the age of 60 and no longer obliged to pay tax, ὑπερετὴς ἀπολελυμένος τῆς λαογραφίας, ‘(being) over-age had been released from the poll-tax’ [14012 111 CE, Karanis].
  • The phrase τελῶν τὰ ἐπικεφάλαια ‘paying the capitation’, i.e. the poll-tax, can be found instead of λαογραφούμενος [12902 158 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 8796 184 CE, Ptolemais Hormou]. The date of death is recorded.
  • A request to remove the name of the deceased from the list of tax-payers is sometimes formally stated, ἀξιῶ σε περιαιρεθῆναι αὐτοῦ τὸ ὄνομα διὰ τῶν δημοσίων βιβλίων ‘I ask you to remove his name from the public register’ [21357 237 CE, Herakleopolite nome; 18701 236-237 CE, Herakleopolis], but more usual is a simple request to include the name of the deceased on the list of the dead, διὸ ἀξιῶ ἀναγραφῆναι τοῦτον ἐν τῇ τῶν τετελευτηκότων τάξει, ‘therefore I request his name be included on the list of the dead’ [20533 61 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. Sometimes a more complete request is made, διὸ ἐπιδίδωμί σοι τὸ ὑπόμνημα ὅπως προσανενέγκῃς οἷς καθήκει καὶ τὸ αὐτοῦ ὄνομα περιαιρεθῇ καὶ ἀνενεχθῇ ἐν τῇ τῶν τετελευτηκότων τάξει ἵνʼ ᾦ ἀναίτιος ‘therefore I submit this report to you so that you may inform those to whom it concerns and that his name may be removed (from the tax-lists) and registered on the list of the dead so that I may not be responsible’ [14408].
  • There often follows an oath, ὀμνύω…ἀληθῆ εἶναι ‘I swear (this) to be true’ [20533; 21583 150 CE, Oxyrhynchite nome].
  • The closing section then follows and can be made up of some or all of the following:
    • a description of the declarant [12901]
    • a note from the office of the addressee directing a local official to check the veracity of the declaration [8801 185 CE, Ptolemais Hormou]
    • signature of the declarant
    • signature of official(s)
    • [date@end]



It appears that without exception the declarations were written on papyri oriented in a pagina format, the scribe writing along the horizontal fibres [8796; 12902]. There can be a large bottom margin as a generous space was often allowed for the addition of the subscription [8802], as indicated also by the addition of several hands after the main declaration [1209].



The layout of the declaration is fairly uniform with minor differences. Some begin the address to the official as if a heading, with the second line indented, and continue the παρά clause from the start of the next line [12902; 8796; 8802]; others do not and the declaration forms one block of text [15658, 78577]; there is also an example of the beginning of the address in ekthesis to the rest [14012]. A late example has the consular date separated from the address by a vacat [78579].


There is often a line drawn under the declaration and before the closing section, probably to prevent any unauthorised additions [8796; 8801]. Another example [12902] has a double line filler at the end of the declaration and before the subscription and change of hand. Two examples clearly indicate that in the closing section, a window was left between the signature of one official and the date, for the insertion of another official signature [8801; 8802].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Declaration of Death. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:e5pm3q6ddjbg5dgvwgbiaz7roe