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Through most of its long history Egypt's prosperity and wealth has derived from the Delta and the fertile valley of the river Nile. Until the completion of the Aswan dam in the first years of the twentieth century the annual Nile flood covered the land, bringing silt and minerals to enrich the agricultural land for cultivation once the flood subsided. Whoever ruled the country depended on the success of Egypt's agriculture, from the sale and taxation of crops grown in the irrigation basins and in fields along the river edge. For any administrative regime, control of land and the revenue derived from it was crucial.
This book provides a glimpse into how, and with what success, this process was managed at a particular moment of time – the late second century BC – when Egypt was ruled by an immigrant dynasty of Greek-speaking pharaohs from Macedon whose kings all took the name of Ptolemy. The focus of our study is the administrative area or ‘nome’ that was centred on the city of Apollonopolis Magna, modern Edfu – the Apollonopolite or Edfu nome (see Map, p. xviii).
Administratively as well as geographically, this nome formed part of the broader area known as the Thebaid. Located some 745 km south of Cairo and 83 km south of Luxor (Thebes), the city of Edfu itself lay perched on a sandstone ridge – a gezira or turtleback – on the west bank of the Nile at around the halfway point of the nome. Best known to modern travellers for its impressive temple of Horus, Edfu stood above the flood plain on a bend in the river. The city thus enjoyed both natural protection when the annual flood arrived in late summer and considerable cultivable land in its immediate vicinity. The flood plain surrounding the city extended 6 km across at its broadest point and stretched along the western bank of the Nile some 13 km north to Sacayda and 12 km south to Nag el Hassaya, the site of Edfu's cemetery in the Ptolemaic period. This plain provided some of the most fertile basins of the nome and a network of canals facilitated irrigation.
The importance of the Greek land survey from the Apollonopolite (Edfu) nome, published here as P. Haun. IV 70 (119/118 BC), has already been the subject of some discussion in print. Papyri in Greek, as primarily used within the Ptolemaic administration, are far fewer from the Egyptian south than from the north. As a result, until just a decade ago the pattern of land tenure in Middle Egypt tended to dominate the scene, with little account taken of the situation in Upper Egypt. The land survey edited here is crucial to the reassessment currently underway. To add to the interest of this text, the date of the Edfu land survey corresponds to that of surveys from further north – those of P. Tebt. I and IV, from the Arsinoite nome, and BGU XIV, from the Herakleopolite nome. Comparisons, therefore, gain in validity and significance. The editors are happy to be able finally to present the full text of what has survived of the fullest survey yet known from the south.
This edition started life as the successful Cambridge PhD thesis of Thorolf Christensen in 2002. When its first editor left the academic field, his supervisor Dorothy Thompson took some time to assume responsibility for seeing this edition through to publication. It was only when Katelijn Vandorpe, with her demotic expertise and knowledge of the Ptolemaic south, agreed to join the team that the project began to move forward. The result is an edition that is little modified from the editio princeps but has one extra column (col. xvii) and a new introduction which takes account of relevant recent scholarship. Each of the three editors involved is grateful for the input of the other two.
There are other thanks that we wish to record. Adam Bülow-Jacobsen in Copenhagen initially made the text available to Thorolf Christensen to work on for his doctorate. He too provided the fine infrared photographs from which it has been possible to decipher the text (Plates 1–8).
This book provides the first edition with an extensive introduction and full commentary of a unique land survey written on papyrus in Greek which derives from that area of southern (Upper) Egypt known as the Apollonopolite (or Edfu) nome and is now preserved in Copenhagen. Dating from the late second century BC, this survey provides a new picture of both landholding and taxation in the area which differs significantly from that currently accepted. The introduction sets this new evidence in its contemporary context, drawing particular attention to what it reveals about the nature of the relations of the Ptolemaic royal administration with local grandees, Egyptian temples and the army. No student of Hellenistic Egypt can afford to ignore this text, which importantly extends our knowledge of Upper Egypt under the Ptolemaic kings and involves some modification to the prevailing picture of landholding in Hellenistic Egypt.