Geographical, Personal, and Month Names

Greetings Ancient Lives Users! Before beginning our next post, we have a small announcement:

We’ve just hit the 1-year mark since the launch of the website! The success of the project so far has been due in large part to your dedicated efforts. Thank you for all of the transcriptions, measurements, and posts in Talk. Please continue the great work!

In previous posts, we have briefly discussed documentary papyri, and provided tips for deciphering their rather difficult cursive script. Now, we will examine the vocabulary of some of these manuscripts.

 Unlike in literary papyri, in documentary papyri there are recurring expressions such as dating and greeting formulas; proper nouns like geographical, and personal names; and units of measurement. For example, Egyptian month names appear with relative frequency.

 These are:  Θώθ, Φαῶφι, Ἁθύρ, Χοίακ, Τῦβι, Μεχείρ, Φαμενώθ, Φαρμοῦθι, Παχών, Παῦνι, Ἐπείφ, Μεσορή.


(Ἁθύρ) P.Oxy. 4700 (Top of Contract) line 2

 Other common vocabulary that might be found? Greek and Egyptian personal names.


Greek, nominative: Ἀπολλώνιος  (P.Oxy. 4889, Order for Transfer of Credit in Grain, line 1)


 Greek, dative: Διονυϲία<i> (the iota adscript was not always written in) (P.Oxy. 4889, line 16)

 There might also be geographical names.


 P.Oxy. 4700: The city of Oxyrhynchus is mentioned at line 6: Ὀξυρυγχιτῶν πόλεωϲ “of the city of the inhabitants of O.”

A papyrus can also consist of only a list of toponyms. Particularly relevant in this respect is the Bell Papyrus, located at the Bell Library in Minneapolis and containing a list of toponyms in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Anatolia, some easy to identify, some much more obscure. It is difficult to tell what the list represents; it is possible that it is has some sort of religious significance, since there were Coptic ties to many of the places mentioned. A picture of the papyrus is available here: (appendix: Illustrations, p. 23)

Theresa Chresand, Rachael Cullick, Marco Perale, Ryan Seaberg


3 responses to “Geographical, Personal, and Month Names”

  1. mpvgl says :

    Thanks much for these months, names, overscoring, etc.
    Can you say from what century the Egyptian months were transliterated directly into Greek?
    And have any of these concepts been specifically firmed up and extended by the work on AncientLives?

    • mperale says :

      Inscriptions and papyri in Ptolemaic Egypt from the third century BC on increasingly use Egyptian month names alongside or replacing Macedonian months (and, later, Roman months). See Pestman, Papyrological Primer, pages 34-41, with list of months on page 317. The information from this project will give us further data about the use of these different calendar systems.

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