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Title: Oaths and Invocations in Papyrus Letters from Ptolemaic to Byzantine Egypt
Author(s): THOMA, Marianna
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 53    Date: 2023   
Pages: 99-138
DOI: 10.2143/AS.53.0.3292438

Abstract :
The present paper focuses on the use of oaths and invocations in papyrus letters, both private and business, which date to the long period from Hellenistic to early Byzantine times. For the purpose of this paper, I have collected a corpus of ninety-seven private and business letters including oaths, which is analyzed with regard to the intention of letter-writers using them. In this corpus, I have also included letters in which invocations to deities or abstract concepts (for example the health and safety of the writer or the correspondent) are found without the mention of the verb ὄμνυμι or ὁρκίζω. I aim to elucidate the contribution of this material to the style and the rhetorical strategy of ancient epistolographers since despite their different forms, oaths and invocations in papyrus letters constitute part of the writer’s way of expressing thoughts and inner feelings. My analysis highlights the way in which people perceived acts of swearing and their binding forces in their everyday communication. A table of the papyrus documents used, categorized according to the function of the oaths and invocations employed in each letter, is also offered to the reader.

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