Dated 24 March 161, this papyrus preserves a letter written by a brother (Anikos) to his sister (Thamistis). Thamistis has asked her brother to help prove her identity. In his reply, Anikos makes an official statement that he and Thamistis are siblings, born to the same mother and father.
To evidence his statement, Anikos encloses two copies of census declarations he acquired from the record office of their village. Such declarations were made in response to imperial edicts to record the population of the empire for various reasons, including taxation. The census was conducted by governors who relied on large groups of clerks collecting data from the inhabitants of every settlement in their province.
In Egypt, people had to make a declaration of the names, ages, and other identifying information of all co-residents in their house every fourteen years. Copies of these declarations, often confirmed with the oath of the declarer, were sent to central offices and archived in a local record office as well. It was a copy of one such text that Anikos enclosed in his letter to his sister to prove their relationship.
These seemingly dry census declarations, listing names, ages, sexes and family relationships, are precious documents that reveal many details about the practical circumstances of everyday life in Greco-Roman Egypt.
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