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New Texts from Ancient Cultures

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Getting Rich in Late Antique Egypt

Ryan E. McConnell

Papyrologists and historians have taken a lively interest in the Apion family (fifth through seventh centuries), who rose from local prominence in rural Middle Egypt to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Eastern Roman Empire. The focus of most scholarly debate has been whether the Apion estate—and estates like it—aimed for a marketable surplus or for self-sufficiency. Getting Rich in Late Antique Egypt shifts the discussion to precisely how the Apions’ wealth was generated and what role their Egyptian estate played in that growth by engaging directly with broader questions of the relationship between public and private economic actors in Late Antiquity, rational management in ancient economies, the size of estates in Byzantine Egypt, and the role of rural estates in the Byzantine economy.
           
Ryan E. McConnell connects the family’s rise in wealth and status to its role in tax collection on behalf of the Byzantine state, rather than a reliance on productive surpluses. Close analysis of low- and high-level accounts from the Apion estate, as well as documentation from comparable Roman and Byzantine Egyptian estates, corroborate this conclusion. Additionally, McConnell offers a third way into the ongoing debate over whether the Apions’ relationship with the state was antagonistic or cooperative, concluding that the relationship was that of parties in a negotiation, with each side seeking to maximize its own benefit. The application of modern economic concepts—as well as comparisons to the economies of Athens, Rome, Ptolemaic Egypt, and Early Modern France—further illuminate the structure and function of the estate in Late Antique Egypt.

Getting Rich in Late Antique Egypt will be a valuable resource for philologists, archaeologists, papyrologists, and scholars of Late Antiquity. It will also interest scholars of agricultural, social, and economic history.


 

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Honor Among Thieves

Craftsmen, Merchants, and Associations in Roman and Late Roman Egypt

Philip F. Venticinque

Philip F. Venticinque’s new volume examines associations of craftsmen in the framework of ancient economics and transaction costs. Scholars have long viewed such associations primarily as social or religious groups that provided mutual support, proper burial, and sociability, and spaces where non-elite individuals could seek status supposedly denied them in their contemporary society. However, the analysis presented here concentrates on how craftsmen, merchants, and associations interacted with each other and with elite and non-elite constituencies; managed economic, political, social, and legal activities; represented their concerns to the authorities; and acquired and used social capital—a new and important view of these economic engines.

Honor Among Thieves offers a study of associations from a social, economic, and legal point of view, and in the process examines how they helped their members overcome high transaction costs—the “costs of doing business”—through the development of social capital. He explores associations from the “bottom up,” in order to see how their members create status and reputation outside of an elite framework. He thus explores how occupations regarded as thieves in elite ideology create their own systems of honor.

Honor Among Thieves will be of interest to scholars of the ancient economy, of social groups, and Roman Egypt in all periods.

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Materia Magica

The Archaeology of Magic in Roman Egypt, Cyprus, and Spain

Andrew T. Wilburn

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New Literary Papyri from the Michigan Collection

Mythographic Lyric and a Catalogue of Poetic First Lines

Cassandra Borges and C. Michael Sampson

New texts from Greek antiquity continue to emerge on scraps of papyrus from the sands of Egypt, not only adding to the surviving corpus of classical and Hellenistic literature, but also occasionally offering a glimpse into how these poems were studied in antiquity. New Literary Papyri from the Michigan Collection: Mythographic Lyric and a Catalogue of Poetic First Lines presents three such new texts: an innovative lyric poem on the Trojan cycle, a scholarly anthology of lyric verses, and a brief but enigmatic third text. Cassandra Borges and C. Michael Sampson offer the original Greek text of these pieces, along with their scholarly commentary, analyzing their features in a variety of contexts—historical, cultural, poetic, mythological, religious, and scholarly. The fragments collected here are of considerable antiquity (late third to second century BCE) a fact that is significant inasmuch as it places them among the oldest Greek papyri, but all the more so because in this period, a scholarly community was thriving in Ptolemaic Alexandria, the political and cultural capital of Hellenistic Egypt. The fragments bear witness to that scholarly activity: not only is their anthology of poetic verses consistent with other scholarly selections, but the very survival of these texts may well be at least partially indebted to the work of the Alexandrians in studying and propagating Greek literature in Egypt. This edition supplements the 1970s work of Reinhold Merkelbach and Denys Page. Recent digitizing for the APIS project revealed a previously unsuspected join with other material, however, which alone warrants a new, comprehensive edition and analysis.

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Wine, Wealth, and the State in Late Antique Egypt

The House of Apion at Oxyrhynchus

T. M. Hickey

The "glorious house" of the senatorial family of the Flavii Apiones is the best documented economic entity of the Roman Empire during the fifth through seventh centuries, that critical period of transition between the classical world and the Middle Ages. For decades, the rich but fragmentary manuscript evidence that this large agricultural estate left behind, preserved for 1,400 years by the desiccating sands of Egypt, has been central to arguments concerning the agrarian and fiscal history of Late Antiquity, including the rise of feudalism. Wine, Wealth, and the State in Late Antique Egypt is the most authoritative synthesis concerning the economy of the Apion estate to appear to date. T. M. Hickey examines the records of the family's wine production in the sixth century in order to shed light on ancient economic practices and economic theory, as well as on the wine industry and on estate management. Based on careful study of the original manuscripts, including unpublished documents from the estate archive, he presents controversial conclusions, much at odds with the "top down" models currently dominating the scholarship.

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