This chapter provides an overview of the form, content, and method of state administration of legal instruments from the Ptolemaic to the Byzantine period and beyond. While the basic types of transactions remained fairly consistent (sales, loans, marriage arrangements, and leases), the documents show a wide variety of forms and considerable development, and, in some cases, mutual influence. From the modern perspective there was considerable overlap between types of contracts and their uses. The misthôsis contract, for example, the standard contract of lease, was also used in labor contracts (e.g., 8.2.10) and could be combined with loans. Demotic sales could be used to secure loans and to guarantee the maintenance of a woman in marriage (2.2).
In both Demotic and Greek texts, sale (Chapter 6), the signature contract in many legal systems, was one of the most common types of contracts. In Greek, in sale and other contractual types, the so-called objective homology, i.e., a declaration in the third person: “NN (i.e., the seller) acknowledges that he has sold to NN (i.e., the buyer) . . .,” was at first the prevalent form; but gradually the subjective homology, written in the first person, prevailed: “X to Y, greetings. I acknowledge that I have sold to you . . .”. Demotic contracts also prefer the latter: “I acknowledge that I have received from you the satisfactory price for my house . . .”. Despite the seeming informality of the subjective form, the contracting parties were always carefully identified at all periods according to the style of their times (as discussed in Chapter 1 and elsewhere and as evidenced in many of the selected documents), while the documents themselves tend to be full of back-referring words like “above-written,” “aforementioned,” and variants so familiar from modern contractual boilerplate.