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This is an archived exhibit of The Bancroft Library, University California, Berkeley.

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Priests

 

papyrus fragmentExcavators uncovered a substantial corpus of papyri belonging to the priests of the crocodile god Soknebtunis within the temple enclosure. These texts date to the second century CE and demonstrate various aspects of religion and the lives of priests in the Roman period.

The extent of the syncretism that had taken place between Greek and Egyptian gods is evident in one of the papyri documents below (P.Tebt. II 298), where the crocodile god Soknebtunis is referred to as "also called Kronos"–that is, the father of Zeus in the Greek pantheon. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that the association was made through the identification of both Egyptian Sobek (called Souchos, in Greek) and Greek Kronos with the Egyptian creator god Geb. Understanding this relationship explains the prevalence of names such as Greek Kronion ('he of Kronos') or Egyptian Pa-keb-kis ('he of Geb') and Pete-souchos ('gift of Souchos') at Tebtunis.

The quantity of literary texts suggest the possibility of a temple library within the temple enclosure. Literary texts, such as Homer's Iliad and Egyptian stories like the cycle of Setne Khamwas, demonstrate the reading habits of the temple priests; and subliterary texts, such as handbooks on medicine, magic, astrology, chronology, law and administration, illuminate some of the functions that priests were expected to fulfill.

Documentary texts, which are especially well-represented in the Berkeley collection, inform us as to the titles and (sometimes) the functions of priests as well as their eligibility for the priesthood in the Roman period. Priestly offices at Tebtunis included prophetes ('prophet'), stolistai (those who 'robe' the statues of the gods), pterophoroi ('feather-bearers'), a horologos (to keep the calendar) and pastophoroi ('shrine-carriers'). Requirements for entering the priesthood included verification of priestly descent (P.Tebt. 291, 292), knowledge of "priestly and Egyptian writing" (P.Tebt. 291), circumcision (P.Tebt. 291, 292, 293 293) and a fee (P.Tebt. 294, 295 and 296); benefits included tax breaks (P.Tebt. 298). Other documentary texts show the priests engaged in their daily business: writing petitions (P.Tebt. 302), paying taxes (P.Tebt. 305, 306, 307), registering births and deaths (P.Tebt. 299, 300, 301), purchasing papyri stalks (probably for the manufacture of the writing-material) (P.Tebt. 308), leasing land (P.Tebt. 309, 310, 311), writing letters (P.Tebt. 314, 315) and even writing a complaint of assault (P.Tebt. 304).

 

Letter reporting the qualifications of two priests Letter reporting the qualifications of two priests Letter reporting the qualifications of two priests
6 February 162 CE (No links to larger images.)

Likewise Thenpakebkis daughter of Psoiphis and Thenpakebkis was registered together with ... in the house to house census for the 9th year as a priestess at the age of 38, in the 16th year of the deified Hadrianus at the age of 24, and in the 2nd year of the deified Hadrianus together with her father as a member of the priestly order at the age of 10. This is the evidence submitted concerning parentage; and to show that permission was given for circumcision they submitted a copy of a minute of Flavius Melas, ex-high-priest, dated Pharmouthi 25 of the 13th year. After this had been read Serenianus said: You have proved yourself to be of priestly family.

Marsisouchos son of Mar... and Thenkebkis, having given proof of a knowledge of hieratic and Egyptian writing from a hieratic book produced by the sacred scribes in accordance with the memorandum of the 12th of the month Tybi of the present 2nd year, and Pakebkis also called Zosimus, son of Pakebkis and Thaisas, on the strength of proofs produced concerning parentage, were respectively shown to be of priestly family. I pray for your health. The 2nd year of Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus, Mecheir 12.

P.Tebt. II 291, frag. b

 

Report on an application for circumcision Report on an application for circumcision
c. 187 CE (No link to larger images.)

From Kronion, son of Pakebkis son of Harpokration, deputy prophetes, and from Maron son of Kronion son of Harpokration, and Maron son of Maron son of Marepsemis, and Pakebkis son of Kronion son of Psyphis, the three last being priests, all four from the famous exempted temple of the village Tebtunis. With regard to the application presented to you by Marepsemis son of Marsisouchos son of Harpokration, priest of the said temple, requesting that his son Panesis by Thenpakebkis daughter of Panesis should be circumcised, in reply to your inquiry whether he is of a priestly family and ought to be circumcised we declare on oath by the fortune of Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus that he is in truth of priestly family, and that the proofs submitted by him are genuine, and that he ought to be circumcised because he cannot perform the sacred offices unless this is done; otherwise may we may liable to the consequences of the oath. I, Kronion son of Pakebkis, have sworn the above oath as aforesaid. (2nd h.) I, Maron son of Maron, have also sworn, as aforesaid; (3rd h.) I, Maron son of Kronion, have also sworn, as aforesaid.

P.Tebt. II 293

 

Application for the purchase of a priestly office Application for the purchase of a priestly office Application for the purchase of a priestly office
146 CE (No link to larger images.)

Copy. To Tiberius Claudius Justus, administrator of the private accounts, from Pakebkis son of Marsisouchos, exempted priest from the famous temple of Soknebtunis also called Kronos and the most great associated gods situated at the village of Tebtunis in the division of Polemon in the Arsinoite nome. I wish to purchase the office of prophetes in the aforesaid temple which has been for a long time offered for sale, on the condition that I shall ... and carry the palm-branches and perform all the other functions attaching to the office and receive in accordance with the orders the fifth part of the whole revenue which falls to the temple, at the total price of 2200 drachmas instead of the 640 drachmas long ago offered by Marsisouchos son of Pakebkis, which sum I will, as soon as my appointment is ratified, pay into the local public bank at the accustomed dates; and I and my descendants and assigns shall have the permanent ownership and possession of the office for ever with all the same privileges and rights, on payment of 200 drachmas for admission. If therefore it seem good to you, my lord, you will ratify my appointment here at the metropolis upon these terms, and write to the strategos of the nome on the matter, in order that the due services of the gods who love you may be performed. The fifth share of the proceeds of the revenues which falls to me, as aforesaid, after the expenses are paid is 50 artabas of wheat, 9 5/6 artabas of lentils, and 60 drachmas of silver. Farewell. The 10th year of Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Tybi 10.

P.Tebt. II 294

 

tax and property documents tax and property documents tax and property documents List of priests of Soknebtunis exempt from poll-tax, and of payments in money and kind to the temple and a list of revenues from property cultivated by the priests
107–108 CE (No link to larger images.)

To Apollonios, strategos of the division of Polemon in the Arsinoite nome, from Pakebkis son of Phanesis and Marepsemis son of Marenkaimis and Pakebkis son of Onnophris, all three stolistai, and Harpokration son of Marepsemis and Marsisouchos son of Onnophris and Marepsemis son of Marepsemis and Marsisouchos son of Pakebkis and Psenkebkis son of Pakebkis, all five elders of the priests of the famous temple of Soknebtunis also called Kronos, and of Isis, Sarapis, Harpokrates, and the associated gods, situated at the village of Tebtunis in the division of Polemon. Schedule of priests for the eleventh year of Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus; of the fifty persons who are hereditary priests and have been examined and are exempt, the list is as follows. Stolistai of Kronos who have been examined and have paid for their office as stolistes 100 drachmas and for their priesthood 52 drachmas: Pakekbis son of Phanesis son of Pakebkis, his mother being Thaubastis daughter of Marepsemis, who paid in the 3rd year of Domitian 100 drachmas; Marepsemis son of Marenkaimis son of Psoiphis, his mother being Thaubastis daughter of Marsisouchos, who paid in the 3rd year of Domitian 100 dr.; Pakebkis son of Onnophris son of Marsisouchos, his mother being Tamarres daughter of Sigeris, examined in the 11th year of Nero by Papiskos strategos and Didumos Basilikos Grammateus, (who paid) 100 dr. Feather-bearer who has paid for his office as feather-bearer 50 drachmas and for his priesthood 52 dr.: Pakebkis son of Onnophris son of Pakebkis, his mother being Tamarres daughter of Marsisouchos, who paid in the 2nd year of the deified Titus 50 dr. (First tribe) Pakebkis son of Phanesis son of Pakebkis, his mother being Thaubastis daughter of Marepsemis, aged 75, examined in the 5th year in the time of Servianus Severus, who has paid 52 dr. He is likewise stolistes, as is aforesaid. Among those who were examined in the 5th year in the time of Lucius Tullius ... and paid 52 dr.: Pakebkis son of Onnophris son of Pakebkis, his mother being Tamarres daughter of Marsisouchos, aged 74. He is likewise feather-bearer as is aforesaid. (Lines 75–80) -- We, Harpokration son of Marepsemis and Marsisouchos son of Onnophris and Marepsemis son of Marepsemis and Marsisouchos son of Pakebkis and Psenkebkis son of Pakebkis, all five elder of the priests, swear by Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus that we have honestly and truthfully presented the foregoing schedule and that we have made no false statement. The eleventh year of Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus, 5th of Mesore. (2nd hand) I, Marsisouchos son of Onnophris have also sworn the oath above mentioned. (3rd hand) I, N.N., have also sworn the oath above mentioned.

P.Tebt. II 298

 

Receipt for tax on sacrificial calves Receipt for tax on sacrificial calves
208 CE (No link to larger image.)

The 16th year of Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augusti and Publius Septimius Geta Caesar Augustus, Tybi 30. Paid to Apion, Nomarches of the Arsinoite nome, through Shpyris also called Theon, assistant, for the tenth upon calves by the priests of the village of Tebtunis, twenty drachmas, that is, 20 dr.

P.Tebt. II 307

 

Petition concerning assault Petition concerning assault
167/168 CE (No link to larger image.)

To Longinus, decurion of the Arsinoite nome, from Pakebkis son of Onnophris from the village of Tebtunis, exempted priest of the famous temple in the village. On the 30th of the month Epeiph, when the hour was late, one Satorneilos, with a great many others, I know not why, having no complaint against us, picked a quarrel, going so far as to rush in with staves, and seizing my brother Onnophris they wounded him, so that his life is endangered in consequence. Wherefore, sir, being careful for the danger to his life, I submit this statement and beg you to order him (the perpetrator) to be brought before you so that he may take the consequences, and that I may obtain the requisite satisfaction. The 8th year of Antoninus and Verus the Lords Augusti Armeniaci Medici Parthici Maximi.

P.Tebt. II 304