Order to Pay


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

These documents authorise the transfer of money or other commodities between people. Some orders to pay are addressed to bankers, others to officials, or to private persons. Documents addressed to a banker authorised a payment of money to a specific bearer [10767 99 CE, Theadelphia]. Orders to pay addressed to the official in charge of the local granary, the sitologos, authorised ‘giro’ type transfers into and out of private stocks of grain [16902 148 CE, Oxyrhynchus] (see also [Sitologos receipts]). Those between private persons allowed the virtual transfer of money, with the sender collecting an amount of money from a person in exchange for a document addressed to a third party, ordering him to pay the bearer the same amount [114313 137 BCE, Arsinoite nome]. Orders to pay to an individual were not confined to money payments: an archive from an estate in Oxyrhynchus used such orders for the transfer of wine and grain [e.g. 45253-45256 260 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. Orders to pay have been found from the Ptolemaic, through the Roman, and into the Byzantine period. For possible origins see [Muhs 2018]. For an analysis of orders to pay addressed to a banker see [Bagnall and Bogaert 1975]; for those addressed to the sitologos see [Litinas 2007].



Orders addressed to a banker follow the standard opening of [business letters] [from name <nom.>] [to name <dat.>] [χαίρειν] often with the addition of [τραπεζίτῃ] after the banker’s name [10767]. The main verb down to c. 240 BCE is [διάγραψον] e.g. [4327 241 BCE, Oxyrhynchus] after which [χρημάτισον] prevails well into the Roman period [10767; 8924 201 CE, Alexandria]; [δός] is also found on some orders to bankers [21883 229 CE, Oxyrhynchus]; see [Bagnall and Bogaert 1975 : 94-95]. The reason for the payment is detailed e.g. ὀψώνιον (salary) [21883]; this is followed by the amount written in full and in symbols. In Ptolemaic documents the closing formula [ἔρρωσο] is usually written, with the [date@end] afterwards. Roman examples do not have a closing salutation.


Orders to pay addressed to the sitologos typically follow the same structure as those addressed to a banker – indeed their functions were very similar [Bagnall and Bogaert 1975 : 101]. The opening address accordingly has [σιτολόγῳ] after the named official in place of [τραπεζίτῃ]. The main verb is [διάστειλον] [114249 123 CE, Oxyrhynchus] and sometimes [μέτρησον] [41673 I BCE, Theadelphia].


Orders addressed to individuals have a similar opening address [from name <nom.>] [to name <dat.>] [χαίρειν], but the main verb is usually δός or παράδος [20035 II CE; 15674 260 CE, Oxyrhynchus] and sometimes [ἐξοδίασον] [21211 208-9 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. There is generally no closing salutation; the examples from the Oxyrhychite estate appear less formal than those addressed to bankers or sitologoi, with an added ἔρρωσο e.g. [45253; 45255 260 CE, Oxyrhynchus].


Some III CE orders to pay are more akin to [business notes] with an opening address in the form of a hypomnema, i.e. [from παρά + name <gen.>] [to name <dat.>], although contemporary business notes from the Heroninus archive place the recipient at the end of the document. Unlike business notes there is always the salutation χαίρειν; there is no closing phrase although an Oxyrhynchite order to pay has an elaborate closing salutation [30213 III CE].



An early order to pay is written as a [double document], in pagina format, the writing against vertical fibres [1937 254 BCE, Philadelphia]. Some examples are transversa charta [20035], and others in this orientation with horizontal fibres [23376 13 BCE-14 CE, Herakleopolite nome]. There are also small squarish examples [20124 256 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. Some of the orders to pay wheat and wine from the estate in Oxyrhynchus were written on the same sheet but never separated, i.e. [45258 and 45259, pagina format, vertical fibres], and [15674 and 45261, horizontally oriented, horizontal fibres]. This variety underlines the fact that orders to pay are generally rather informal in respect of format.



The text is usually presented in a single block often with χαίρειν indented on a single line [129935; 16336; 20124], or separated from other text on the same line [32141; 45255; 45256]. The date can be written apart from the main text [114313, 20124] or can be indented [45253; 45255]. Some of the documents from the Oxyrhynchus estate have an X marked at the start e.g. [45255; 45256] which no doubt had some internal significance.


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Order to Pay. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:t526ntyrkveclnzdhqvft64h7y