Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 36 (1999) 53-70
The Death Declarations of Roman Egypt:
Death declarations: provenance and seasonal distribution
Under the Principate, the inhabitants of Egypt were registered
in censuses held every fourteen years. The names of taxpayers were
collated in separate tax lists from which they had to be removed in
the event of their death. It is commonly assumed or implied that
the authorities would be informed of such deaths by means of
individual applications, now known as death declarations, that
were filed by the family of the deceased. Eighty-seven of these texts
have been published to date. They report the death of men, many
though not all of them at ages that made them liable to pay poll tax,
and usually state the month or months in which the death occurred
and in which the declaration was filed; in a number of cases, only
one of these dates is given or still legible.1 In terms of their
distribution over time, the death declarations broadly resemble the
census returns (Fig. 1).2
1 See L. Casarico, II controllo della popolazione nell'Egitto romano, 1: Le
denunce di morte (Azzate 1985), a corpus of eighty-three texts with discussion,
with four additional texts in U. Molyviati-Toptsi, "A Death Certificate from the
Berkeley Collection," ZPE 77 (1989) 281-2. Eighty-two of these documents can be
dated (see Fig. 1). Previous studies include O. Montevecchi, "Ricerche di
sociologia nei documenti dell'Egitto greco-romano, V.-Le denunce di morte,"
Aegyptus 26 (1946) 111-29, and W. Brashear, "P.Sorb.inv. 2358 and the New
Statistics on Death Certificates," BASP 14 (1977) 1-10.
2 The data on the census returns have been taken from R. S. Bagnall and B.
W. Frier, The Demography of Roman Egypt (Cambridge 1994) 8, Table 1.2, with
the addenda 309-12.