Law and Society in Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Egypt: Old and New Approaches II


Building on the results of our previous CENTRAL workshop in October 2019, we intend to continue discussing the impact of regime changes on the implementation of law in the transition from Greek to Roman, and from Roman to Islamic Egypt.

We will employ methodologies across legal history, classical philology, papyrology, Egyptology and ancient and medieval history with a special focus on possible support from the digital humanities.

As a case study for the Eastern Mediterranean, we are going to focus on everyday documents from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Egypt preserved on papyrus which provide unique glimpses into the everyday realities of legal practice. The old paradigm of abrupt changes at the moments of political turmoil (the passages from Ptolemaic to Roman Egypt, from Roman to Byzantine, and from Byzantine to Arab dominated, with the added factor of religious and linguistic transformations) has been being slowly replaced by a more continuous model. It is especially true for Egypt, where notwithstanding the alternations of the dominating power, certain aspects of life kept on going unchanged. One can easily observe that in the case of administration and tax system, but also in the continuous use of certain legal and documentary forms. Interestingly, there are far reaching analogies in this respect both in the times where the Roman governance replaced that of the Ptolemies’, and when the Arab invasion ended the Byzantine rule of the country. It is thus our aim to look closer at these historical moments, trying to comprehend the common factors that may have stood behind this fairly stable evolutionary rather than revolutionary passages. 

  • Partners: Eötvös Loránd University – ELTE (Budapest), Humboldt University Berlin, University of Warsaw
  • Project LeadDr. Lajos Berkes, Humboldt University Berlin
  • Year: 2020