List and Register


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

A list records information by displaying a series of items in a repeated and consistent format. It may be informal and contain a record of personal items, such as household goods [44516 III-IV CE, Karanis] and clothing [30247 III CE, Oxyrhynchus], or it may consist of a more formal inventory [31342 III-IV CE, Oxyrhynchus]; see [P.Coll. Youtie 84-87 : 553-554]. Some lists appear in other documents, such as a list of books appended to a private letter [78532, l. 12-17, II CE, Oxyrhynchus].


A register is an adminiatrative record containing information for the purpose of transmission or archiving. There are registers for taxation, (names [7767 254-231 BCE Arsinoite nome]; land [10193 117-138 CE, Theadelphia]), for [epikrisis], or registers recording day-to-day transactions [27192 II CE, Theadelphia]. A list often forms the central element of a register [8826; 12627, both 182-187 CE, Arsinoite nome], and so the two are described together in this document.


A distinction should be made between:

  1. A register (one roll).
  2. A register made of re-used rolls pasted together, e.g. [25668 75-99 CE, Oxyrhynchus (?) and 20395 91-92 CE, Lykopolis] pasted together and re-used on the other side for a copy of Pindar’s Hymns and Paeans [62532 100-150 CE, Oxyrhynchus].
  3. A series of single declarations pasted together and making up a roll (τόμος συγκολλήσιμος) [12687 and 8803 pasted together, 184 CE, Arsinoite nome; 16038 - 16057 174-207 CE, Prosopite nome]. From a typological point of view, a τόμος συγκολλήσιμος does not correspond to a list or register. It is a composite, and while it may display some features also found in long lists, such as page numbering, each separate sheet – i.e. column – originally carried a free-standing text.
  4. An abstract from a register, i.e. a single page copied from a roll that contained a register with a list [9458 222 CE, Arsinoite nome] – see [abstract].


This overview will bear mainly on category 1, but the other three will also be addressed where appropriate.


The structure, format, and layout of lists and registers do not show notable and consistent variations throughout the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods. On the contrary, consistency can be observed over a period of several centuries - compare the praescripts of [3724 115 BCE, Kerkeosiris] and [44599 216/7 CE, Philadelphia].



The structure may consist of an opening praescript, a transitional phrase, a list, and a closing section. Stand-alone lists usually display a looser structure than formal registers; they can simply comprise a bare list, without a praescript or closing section of any kind, e.g. [65756 III BCE] a list of herbs, and [3117 139 BCE, Hemopolis Magna] a list of metal objects; or the praescript can be very short, e.g. [30209 III CE] a list of food; 28256 II-III CE; 25890 41-54 CE, both Arsinoite nome].


The praescript in more formal lists and registers may consist of some of the following:


The transitional phrase is often [ἔστι δέ] ‘those are (the listed items)’ [12684 l.3, 185-186 CE; 8760, l.11, 185 CE, both Ptolemais Hormou] or [εἶναι δέ] [21632 l.5, 94-95 CE, Oxyrhynchus], the infinitive implying an introductory verb such as σημαίνει ‘(the scribe) indicates’. The wording [οὕτως (ἔχει)] ‘such (is the result)’ is also attested [12794 l.12, 222 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis].


This is followed by the list of items being recorded. An explicit introductory verb may appear, e.g. σημαίνει [110164 II CE, Hermopolite nome]. The nature of listed items varies considerably:

  • Names [9274 c.200 CE, Soknopaiu Nesos], gender [44106 229 BCE, Arsinoite nome], personal status [3787 B.2, l.30, 132-121 BCE, Kerkeosiris], professions [44106 col. ii, 230-229 BCE, Arsinoite nome], more specifically fishermen [26161 I CE, Oxyrhynchus], compulsory services (liturgies) [8762 185 CE, Arsinoite nome].
  • Amounts (to be paid out or to be received) [110164], assets (πόρος) owned by candidates for liturgies [8760], amounts recorded by a pawnbroker [26726 II CE, Arsinoite nome].
  • Land surfaces, crops [3804, l.1-2, 115-114 BCE, Kerkeosiris; 9470 172 CE, Theadelphia].
  • Shrines, priests, days of service [3724 115 BCE, Kerkeosiris].
  • Types of documents, summary of transactions, [11965 42 CE, Tebtunis].


The lists may be ordered alphabetically [9469 172 CE, Theadelphia; 44599; 9467 166 CE, Theadelphia; 8826]; in geographical order [29101 II CE, Oxyrhynchus (nomes)]; or chronologically [12275 51 CE, Philadelphia, (by year)], [12301 I CE, Arsinoite nome, (by month)] and [9523 (by day)].


A list can display single or multiple levels of classification, e.g. name, then month and amount paid [9521 140 CE, Philadelphia]. A tax register from Philadelphia displays two orders of classification: it is first divided into three sections (corresponding to Alexandrian magistrates, local magistrates, and villagers) and within each of these sections the information is presented in alphabetical order.


In addition to the grand total, which might appear in the praescript, intermediate sub-totals also appear [11662 114 CE, Arsinoite nome].


The postscript may contain:



Many simple lists are written on a single sheet of papyrus [1308 258-256 BCE, Alexandria(?)], while many registers are written on wide [rolls], i.e. a papyrus that displays several columns of text and is long enough to be rolled up [8747 42 CE, Arsinoite nome]. Single sheets can be in pagina format with horizontal [28256 II-III CE, Arsinoite nome] or vertical fibres [28175 II CE, Arsinoite nome]; or on a horizontally oriented sheet with horizontal [28255 II-III CE, Arsinoite nome], or vertical fibres [2272 III BCE, Philadelphia]; or squarish [10600 56 CE, Philadelphia (horizontal fibres); 30390 III CE, Oxyrhynchus (vertical fibres)].


Registers are often very long documents and constitute some of the widest rolls found in documentary papyri, e.g. a tax register [20001 143 CE, Thebes (H. 35.5 x W. 320cm)], with horizontal fibres; or [9470 (H. 21 x W. 207.5cm)] a register of vineland written against the fibres. Some are also found in pagina [9146] or squarish [8762] formats.


The ink is usually black, but red ink occurs when there is a copy of a list [8760], or an [abstract] from a register [20195 (epikrisis)]. Red ink may also be used for corrections or additions, e.g. [15020 (minutes of court proceedings); 14014 (abstract from register of eprkrisis)]



A simple list may be written as a single block of text, without filling the whole sheet of papyrus [2007; 12684], but longer lists and registers tend to stretch to many columns of text [44599]. Columns are generally evenly spaced [10216 162 CE, Theadelphia], but occasionally a column may snake around the vertical outline of the preceding one, e.g. [12627 182-187, Arsinoite nome], a document produced by a scribe who had limited abilities (βραδὺς γράφων). A land register from the Kynopolite nome is particularly uniform and elegant and clearly produced in bookform by a scribe used to copying literary texts; the bottom margin here is also conspicuously generous [22479 196-197 CE].


Multiple columns are sometimes numbered [12794 221 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis], by page (σελίς) or by sheet (κόλλημα), as evidenced in abstracts, e.g. [14014 l. 6, 188 CE, Karanis; 28248 II-III CE, Arsinoite nome].


The scribe often makes use of ekthesis and eisthesis to highlight sections of information, e.g. [12690 182-187 CE, Arsinoite nome; 9470; 8857]. He may also separate sections by adding a horizontal line [9131 276 CE, Arsinoite nome], or divide them with an empty space [10193; 41441 235 CE, Arsinoite nome]. There may also be control marks in the margins [4021 I BCE, Herakleopolite nome].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: List and Register. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:xxzzr5fnzvh4xdplt6rfu3wnga