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Appendix A: An Egyptian "Eviction Notice" A RECENTLY published Oxyrhynchite papvrus (P. Mich. Inv. 1355) contains a Greek private letter written sometime in the third century A.D. by the tenant of a house to his landlord. (Both their given names are unknown.) The first half of the letter is lost; the papyrus begins as the tenant is recalling his former good relations with his landlord. The translation is by Prof. Youtie: . . . and no one knew whether the house was mine or yours because there was no disagreement between me and you. But now I am being subjected to violence by vour very own Ptolema, who sent me word to this effect: "Give up the house. Otherwise, your household furnishings will be put out." I ought not to have been subjected to these things. For I have assurances (from you) for the period from the Amesysia to the Amesysia, and the god willing I owe you nothing on the rents except for the present semester only. I pray for vour good health. This is the only ancient document purporting to give, in direct discourse, the words of an "eviction notice." Note the notice's extreme abruptness, with no allowance for even a temporary delay; furthermore, the notice itself does not indicate the landlord's reason for the expulsion, and the tenant seems taken completely unawares. The Amesvsia was a moveable Egyptian feast in midsummer; cf. F. Bilabel, Neue Heidelberger Jahrbiicher (1929) 29. The tenant's current rental agreement, an oral one, was to run for a year as defined by this festival, and was divided into two sixmonth payment periods. As regards rent, the sole question 2 2 1 Egyptian "Eviction Notice" involved the payment for the current six months, which was probably payable at the end of the period and hence not yet in arrears. The tenant, in any event, obviously saw no ground here for expulsion. As for the notice, the tenant seems to accept its legal validity, and he may be assumed to have vacated already. His counterstroke consisted in an appeal to the social indignity of the situation (social pressure ), on the one hand, and in a firm written complaint about the expulsion's groundlessness, on the other. The latter tactic doubtless prepared his ground in a suit. In A.D. 214, a situation very similar to this resulted in a petition to the Emperor Caracalla from a certain Flavius Callimorphus. The emperor's reply, which listed the grounds for a justified expulsion, is C. 4.65.3. Bibliography: H. C. Youtie, Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 30 (1978) 186-190. 222 ...


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