1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

A synchoresis is a notarial contract produced by judicial courts, which recorded a private transaction, thus making it legally binding. The synchoresis apparently developed from a written summary of the judgement of a court hearing [Wolff 1978b : 93] and cf. [5240 154-143 BCE, Krokodilopolis].


These contracts were addressed to the archidikastes (ἀρχιδικαστής) or chief justice who was the head of the katalogeion (records office) in Alexandria. They are distinctively Alexandrian documents as evidenced by the more than 80 examples from there, but there is also evidence that this type of contract was used in Oxyrhynchus (12 attested cases to date), and the Arsinoite (4 cases) and Herakleopolite (2 cases) nomes. All examples in this description are Alexandrian, unless otherwise stated. For a complete list of published synchoreseis consult [ADRA] and [Claytor and van Minnen 2021 : 158, n.2].


The majority of the Alexandrian examples date from 30 - 4 BCE. There is one I CE contract [16328 70 CE], and two II CE contracts [20054 144 CE, 9000 177 CE], suggesting that the synchoresis form was used in Alexandria throughout the Roman period. The Oxyrhynchite documents span the period from the I-III CE, those from the Arsinoite and Herakleopolite nomes are I-II CE. In almost all of these documents, where it can be ascertained, the parties to the contract were Alexandrian or Roman citizens. In only one case, from Oxyrhynchus, is there no explicit clue that would indicate either Alexandrian or Roman citizenship [16537 103 CE].


Synchoreseis are used for a wide range of contracts: marriage and divorce [18494 30 BCE-14 CE; 18540 13 BCE], the sale of a slave [18504 30 BCE-14 CE; 20007 143 CE, unknown provenance], and transactions concerning land [18561 6-5 BCE (lease); 18573 4 BCE (sale)]. There is a large number of loan contracts, e.g. [18500; 18594 (repayment), both 13 BCE; 20990 44 CE, Oxyrhynchus], and this type is well attested in Alexandria for wet-nurse contracts e.g. [18503; 18548 both 13 BCE].



Many of the Augustan period examples are from a single archive of Alexandrian documents from the scribal office attached to the court; these are draft documents at various stages of preparation, e.g [79295 12 BCE; 18573 4 BCE]; on this archive see [Schubart 1913]. While not all elements are present in all examples, the general structure may be defined as follows:


The synchoresis opens with a formal address to the archidikastes, the chief judge, with the standard ὑπόμνημα-type opening: a formal address [to official <dat.>] is followed by the name of the declarant [from παρά + name <gen.>] along with the declarant’s patronymic, status (e.g. Persian of the epigone 18498 l.3; citizen 18504 l.2), and guardian if needed (e.g. 18494 l.2-3, 6-7).


Many of the Alexandrian documents from c. 14 BCE onwards are addressed to the same official, Protarchos, who is ἐπὶ τοῦ κριτηρίου ‘in charge of the tribunal’. The later documents from Oxyrhynchus have a fuller address to the official incorporating his other duties as ‘priest and superintendant of the chrematistai and other courts’ (ἱερεῖ καὶ ἀρχιδικαστῆι καὶ πρὸς τῇ ἐπιμελείᾳ τῶν χρηματιστῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων κριτηρίων) [16537; 20539 57 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. Another document, also from Oxyrhynchus, dispenses with the address to an official altogether [78618 III CE].


This is followed by the main verb [συγχωρέω], which as [Wolff 1978b : 93] explains, is a verb of concession or accommodation, and in these documents is very often in the third person, i.e. the main sentence is objectively phrased, e.g. [18561 l.4; 18540 l.7]; but it can occasionally be subjective, e.g. [18628 l.7-8, 10 BCE, Alexandria; 20990 l.7, Oxyrhynchus].


The details of the contract follow, sometimes ending with ἀξιοῦμεν, a request to validate the document [18566 l.32, I BCE] or ἀξιοῦμεν ὡς καθήκ[ε]ι [20539 l.19, 57 CE, Oxyrhynchus]; one document also has εὐτύχει, a closing salutation usually found at the end of letters and petitions [18628 l.43]. There may be a [date@end], an unusual feature given the fact that documents produced by notarial offices regularly display the date at the beginning. The date is sometimes followed by an official subscription recording the fact that the document has indeed been registered [16537 l.33 κατακεχώρι(σται); 20539 l.20].



The format of synchoreseis usually corresponds to the pagina shape; the writing follows [18500; 18498]; most drafts are written against the fibres [18541; 18499 both 13 BCE] the direction of the fibres. In our database, the average dimensions of documents with pagina orientation are 33 x 12.5cm. One document has mixed fibres, with two sheets glued together, one blank piece with vertical fibres, the other with the contract written along the horizontal fibres [18504]. Another is unusually long and narrow [18621].


In our database, the average dimensions of documents with pagina orientation are 33 x 12.5 cm. Some I and II CE documents are written on horizontally oriented sheets, along the horizontal fibres [20539 57 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 12346 128 CE, Tebtunis; 20007 143 CE Soknopaiou Nesos].



Many of the synchoreseis distinguish the name of the archidikastes by separating it out from the rest of the text [18500; 18541; 18494]; two II CE documents have a full address to the official in ekthesis to the rest of the text [20054 Alexandria; 20057 143-144 CE, Arsinoite nome]. Often the preserved documents are found in the form of a [register], as evidenced by the word κόλ(λημα) placed at the top of the sheet [18541; 18497 and 18557 both 13 BCE], and some have two documents on the same sheet [18502; 18597 both 13 BCE].


The text is written in a single column, but sometimes two [18497]. There can be a wide bottom margin [18573; 18606 16-15 BCE; 18539 13 BCE], lines between entries [18597] or thick dots between subscriptions [78618]. The documents written on some horizontally oriented sheets display long lines in a single column [12346; 20539; 20007].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Synchoresis. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:lny5ihmzmbcnjlrgvx4ytxq3xi