Nomination to liturgy


  1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

In Roman Egypt, various services and tasks were delegated by the State to male individuals belonging, for the most part, to two categories of the population: the peasantry in the villages and the inhabitants of the metropoleis (nome capitals) [Lewis 1997 : 9]. This compulsory public service of limited duration was called a liturgical office (λειτουργία, often spelled λιτουργία) [Oertel 1917; Reiter 2013]. It was imposed on those who owned the property (πόρος) to cover the relevant financial liability [22549 l.9, 183 CE, nome of Arabia; 12686 l.15, 184 CE, Arsinoite nome]. Individuals without an adequate πόρος provided labour, such as helping to maintain the dykes [see Penthemeros Receipt]. Depending on the task, criteria other than property were taken into consideration for nomination to a liturgy, e.g. body strength in the case of bodyguards [17401 ll.11-13, 274 CE, Oxyrhynchus], or place of residence and age for tower guards [22550 183 CE, nome of Arabia].


Compulsory public service existed already in the Ptolemaic period, but the liturgical system was remodelled and developed by the Roman authorities. It is assumed that this took place at some point during the I CE; hard evidence for the management of compulsory offices, however, is attested from the reign of Trajan [Reiter 2013 : 4117]. The offices that were common in the II CE and early III CE went through a process of change in the late III and early IV CE [Lewis 1997 : 9].


Officials in villages, towns or cities were in charge of selecting the suitable candidates, and of sending to the strategos lists carrying their nominations [Lewis 1997 : 65-79]. Other hierarchical levels of the administration were also involved in the selection, depending on the type of liturgy [Lewis 1997 : 81-83]. In documents other than nominations to liturgy, the word used to designate a nomination is προσάγγελμα, carrying the general meaning of ‘declaration’ [23526 l.4, 265 CE; 23531 l.138, 265 CE, both Hermopolite nome]; its use is not limited to nominations to liturgy.


In the villages, nominations were made by a village scribe (κωμογραμματεύς, himself a liturgist [22548 183 CE, nome of Arabia]), or by village elders acting as village scribes (πρεσβύτεροι) [18237 198-209 CE, Kynopolite nome; 11231 186 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]. In the Arsinoite villages, the κωμογραμματεύς was replaced in the early III CE by two or more village scribes of the quarter (ἀμφοδοκωμογραμματεῖς) [14254 224-225 CE, Tebtunis], before the appearance of the village chief (κωμάρχης) in the mid-III CE, who replaced both the κωμογραμματεύς and ἀμφοδοκωμογραμματεύς throughout Egypt [16587 256 CE, Oxyrhynchite nome; 15942 248 CE, Herakleopolite nome].


In the metropoleis, nominations were made by the city secretaries (γραμματεῖς (μητρο)πόλεως) [Lewis 1997 : 68]. At Oxyrhynchus, in the early III CE, this task was handed over to a group of ἀμφοδογραμματεῖς; then, around 245 CE, to tribe-chiefs (φύλαρχοι) [15759 271-271 CE]; and finally, to coordinators (συστάται) [33653 early IV CE]. In Hermopolis, nomination of liturgists was handled by a so-called witness (γνωστήρ) [22375 390 CE].


Liturgists were often reluctant to take up the burden of public service. Some lists consist of replacements for nominees who did not show up [11231 186 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos], or who fled [22551 184 CE, Heroopolis (nome of Arabia)]. In other cases, nominees appealed against their nomination by sending a complaint [11615 161 CE], [Lewis 1997 : 97-98].


For important liturgical offices, such as that of tax collectors in kind (sitologos) or in cash (praktor), usually two names were submitted to the strategos, who made the final choice by lot [Lewis 1997 : 71]. Once the nomination was completed, the strategos confirmed it by issuing an [approval of nomination], called a public statement (πρόγραμμα) [23526 265 CE, Hermopolite nome; 8942 169 CE, Arsinoite nome]; [Stroppa 2004; Stroppa 2017]. Both stages of the process could be carried out on a single document, turning a nomination into an approval of nomination [21792 III CE, Oxyrhynchus] [Schubert 2022c].


The nominee also had to submit a [liturgical oath], by which he pledged to perform the task to which he had been appointed.



All nominations to liturgy are written in the form of a hypomnema, i.e. a declaration made from the village scribe (or his substitute) to the strategos, [to name strategos <dat.>] [from παρά name office <gen.>]. In rare cases, the name of the village is inserted in the top margin, above the opening [22550; 15479 208 CE, Arsinoite nome].


A shorter version is also attested, where the nomination starts immediately with the main text, without an opening [12689 184 CE, Arsinoite nome]. This may be explained by the fact that some nomination lists consisted of several sheets of papyrus [8821 185 CE, Arsinoite nome].


The main text varies considerably from one nomination to the next. It usually starts with a reminder of the justification for nominating individuals to a given liturgy ἀκολούθως τοῖς κελευσθεῖσι ‘in accordance with the orders...’ [17504 247-248 CE, Oxyrhynchus], or αἰτούμενος ὑπὸ σοῦ ‘asked by you...’ [22551]. The statement of nomination itself may comprise some form of δίδωμι , e.g. δίδωμι τὸν ὑπογεγραμμένον ‘I nominate the person named below’ [22551; 11231; 22549] or εἰσδίδωμι [17504]. The official specifies that the candidates own the required property (πόρος) [12031, ll. 10-11, 185 CE, Arsinoite nome: ὄντας εὐπόρους καὶ ἐπιδι<τη>δ<ε>ίους]; [Lewis 1963 : 5].


Then comes the list of names, frequently introduced by ἔστι δέ [22551] or εἰσὶ δέ [11231; 12031]. The length of the list may vary from a single name [17401; 12689] to about twenty [9133 170-171 CE, Arsinoite nome; 15479; 8821]. Next to each name, the official indicates the size of the candidate’s property [8821].


The document closes with a [date@end], usually with a transmission docket (missing in [12686] and [11231]).



Nominations to liturgy are consistently produced on sheets of vertical shape (one document is squarish, with two columns [15479]); the writing always follows the direction of fibres. In some cases, a vertical kollesis is clearly visible, indicating that the sheet was cut from a roll, and that the orientation of the sheet was not modified for use [12031; 22550; 22551].


In the three successive steps consisting of nomination to liturgy, [approval of nomination], and [liturgical oath], format seems to be determined by the provenance of papyri: whereas the pagina format is the standard in the Arsinoite nome [8787 184-185 CE, Arsinoite nome; 9133; 12031], the demotic style format is in use in other nomes (see below).


In the Arsinoite nome, sheets of mid-sized height (ca. 21-23cm, a common height for all kinds of declarations in that area) are consistently used. The width – and therefore the general proportions – may vary from 6.5cm [12689] to 10cm [11231], 12.7cm [8787] even 14cm [9133].


Some nominations to liturgy from the Arsinoite nome were assembled into a roll (τόμος συγκολλήσιμος): see [9133], with ink traces in the left margin, and an overlap of the two sheets at the point where they were glued together. Two documents display comparable proportions (ca. H. 22 x W. 7.5cm), [12687 184 CE, Arsinoite nome; 12686]. The former was pasted together with a wider sheet [8803 H. 22 x W. 14cm], containing a liturgical report.


Some nominations to liturgy from the nome of Arabia (eastern Delta, see Bastianini & Coles in [P.Oxy. LX : 144-149]) were found in Oxyrhynchus. They presumably came there among the papers of an Oxyrhynchite official who settled back home after having served in the nome of Arabia. Three preserved documents display an exceptional height of nearly 34 cm. Their width ranges from ca. 9 to 10.5cm [22548, 22550; 22551]; see also [22549], only half preserved, and [22547 183 CE], a liturgical oath, in the same format. This demotic style format is also attested once, possibly twice, in the Oxyrhynchite nome [16587; 15759].


In another Oxyrhynchite case, the dimensions are smaller, but the proportion remains the same, producing a long and narrow strip of papyrus (H. 21.8 x W. 6.6cm [17401]). This reduced format occurs again in a nomination to liturgy addressed to the strategos of the Herakleopolite nome, but also found in Oxyrhynchus [15942].



The opening follows the usual practice of highlighting the addressee and sender through several devices, e.g. use of an oversized initial letter for the addressee and sender (π of παρά) [22548; 12031; 11231]; use of eisthesis when the addressee and sender cover more than one line [12686; 9133].


After the scribe has provided a justification for nominating individuals to a liturgy, the transitional clause ἔστι δέ / εἰσὶ δέ is inserted, either centred on a separate line [22550 l.14; 11231 l.14], or at the end of the line, with a short space separating it from the preceding words [9133 l.8; 12686 l.16; 22551 l.19]. In the list of nominees, the credentials (e.g. πόρος) may be abbreviated [12686; 22549]. In [22550], a checking mark has been added next to the names of each of the five nominees.


Some features in the documents indicate that the writing of the document could take place in several stages. First, the opening, main text, transitional clause, and date were entered. The names of the nominees could be inserted later, or some names were added to a provisional list.


The transmission docket was entered last, sometimes by a different hand; this suggests that some village scribes received the help of an assistant or a fellow village scribe, who prepared the document before the transmission docket was added by the village scribe himself [16587, where the transmission docket is separated from the other text with two horizontal lines; 15942; 22549; 22551]. In [17401], the two κωμάρχαι cannot write and their signature is provided with the help of a literate individual.


The difference in sheet format between the Arsinoite and the other nomes (see above §15) is mirrored in the general layout of the page. A full comparison, however, is made difficult by the fact that nominations from the Arsinoite nome date for the most part from the II CE, whereas some features of the layout in other nomes date from the III CE.


In the Arsinoite nome, a window is left free between the list of nominees and the date, for the village scribe to add his transmission docket [12031; 11231; 9133]. This practice occurs in other declarations made in the Arsinoite nome, e.g. [Libelli], where a window was left free for a signature by a member of the commission in charge of overseeing sacrifices (on windows, see [Schubert 2018b : 340-343]).


A window was also used to enter the name and credentials of a nominee, leaving some free space before the date [12686; 12689]. Another scribe anticipated a long list of nominees and prepared a square sheet with two columns; he placed the date at the bottom of the second column. Afterwards, names of nominees were inserted, and an additional name was placed by another hand [15479, where in the date the name of emperor Geta was later crossed out (damnatio memoriae)]. Thus, nominations to liturgy could be pre-filled in part, the variable elements being added when they became available. The use of a window appears also in a nomination from Oxyrhynchus, where the scribe left a free space for the name of a nominee, but did not enter it [15759].


In a group of four nominations from the nome of Arabia dating from 183/183 CE [22548; 22549; 22550; 22551], the text is written in one block, starting from the top of the sheet and leaving a considerable margin at the bottom, where the transmission docket is added after the main text.


In the mid-III CE, a new phenomenon appears in the Herakleopolite [15942] and Oxyrhynchite [16587] nomes (in the Arsinoite nome the evidence is lacking): the scribes who prepare a nomination to liturgy leave an ample margin at the top and at the bottom. The bottom margin is used for a transmission docket; the top margin is kept free for the approval by the strategos (see [approval of nomination]). This practice, which is securely attested in the mid-III CE, may actually go back to an earlier period, but the available evidence [18237] remains too elusive to allow any certainty on the matter.


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Nomination to Liturgy. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:ijuxnb5fwvfvrmbaowktlocwnq