Select Papyri, 2.271A


Greek text: UPZ 1.2
Date: March 163 B.C.

Although this petition suggests that female circumcision was common in Egypt, it is only reference to the practice that has been found in papyrus documents.   The translation is by J.Rowlandson, "Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt", no. 78.

To Dionysius, one of the friends of the king, from Harmais, a recluse in the great Serapeum for over four years now, living off what I collect by begging in the temple.   I am being wronged by Nephoris, an inhabitant of Memphis. Her little daughter Tathemis stays with me in the temple and she is also provided for from the distributions she collects. When she had got together 1,300 bronze drachmas, she gave them to me for safe keeping. After a while Nephoris cheated me and claimed it was about time for Tathemis to get circumcised, as is the custom amongst the Egyptians. She asked me to give her the 1,300 drachmas. She would take care of the circumcision in return and clothe the girl and give her a dowry when she would marry her off to a husband. If she did not do any of this and if she did not circumcise Tathemis by Mecheir of year 18, she would pay me 2,400 bronze drachmas instantly. On these terms I agreed and gave her the 1,300 drachmas in Thoth. Now she has done none of the things we agreed upon, and for this reason I am bothered by Tathemis who wants her 1,300 drachmas back. It so happens that I cannot go down to Memphis for business matters. I therefore ask you not to overlook me now that I am hard pressed, but be appalled at this affair. Take into account how she cheated me and give instructions, if you think it best, for her to be summoned to appear before you. If things are I say, then force her to do justice by me, so that I can pay the money back to Tathemis and will no longer be bothered. If this happens, I shall receive considerable assistance. Farewell.

papyrus 271B

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