What do the Zenon Papyri record?

The documents from the Zenon archive cover a timespan of approximately forty years, and the subject of the documents is largely dependent on Zenon's current activities and his location when the documents came into his possession. (More information on the timespan of the Zenon archive, with a description of the six periods mentioned below, is available on a separate page in this exhibit). There are therefore numerous different types of documents contained in the archive, which can be categorized by their time period. Examples of the types of documents contained in the archive are linked below. The links will open a new window for the text, and provide further links to the APIS database.

From the period before Zenon traveled to Palestine on Apollonios' behalf (before 260 BCE), we possess letters written to Zenon and a number of accounts, including the provisions for a journey. While in Palestine, Zenon continued to receive and collect letters and accounts of supplies. His files also include records of personal matters, such as the purchase of a slave girl or the record of a loan of money.

During the third period, Zenon's files also include official letters that were written to Apollonios, the dioketes, letters adressed to Zenon from Apollonios and others, such as Sosos, who writes to Zenon about a cargo of wheat and wine, and the personal letters of a man named Panakestor, who was the overseer at Philadelphia between 257 and 256 BCE.

The fourth period, when Zenon was the overseer of the estates at Philadelphia, contains many documents related to the operations Apollonios' holdings, including accounts related to land in Memphis, a lawsuit against lessees of land at Philadelphia, and the letters received by Zenon while in his position.

The position of overseer of the estates was filled by a number of other individuals in the years following 248, inlcuding Eukles (248-243), who was assistaed by Herakleides, and Bion (243-?). The archive includes some of these files, such as a letter to Eukles related to the purchase of lead. Zenon continued to produce many documents in this period--he received letters, filed petitions to the king, and undertook contracts, sometimes as a creditor.

There are fewer texts from the sixth period of the archive, after it had passed out of the Zenon's hands. The documents include a royal decree about Zenon, freeing him from the payment of a fine. The large number of documents from the Zenon archive provide a picture of life both in and out of goverment in the early Ptolemaic period, encompassing documents related to trade, legal proceedings, travel, and the day-to-day workings on an estate.

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