ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 47 (2010) 267-273
Willy Clarysse and Dorothy J. Thompson, Counting the People in
Hellenistic Egypt. Volume 1: Population Registers (P.Count). Volume
2: Historical Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
xxvi + 694 pages + 5 plates; xxii + 395 pages.
The volumes reviewed here follow the standard practice in papyrology
of collecting the known (or in this case most of the known) documents that
concern a particular institution or type of document.1 Many of the texts have
been previously published, others are presented for the first time, but what
makes these two volumes of the highest importance to Ptolemaic papyrology
and history is the fact that the authors have identified a variety of document
types all relating to the process of the census and have thoroughly discussed
the historical implications. Many improvements to reading and interpretations
are offered in these volumes, and some new texts are presented. Some of them
(e.g. Text 8) from the village of Mouchis (cf. the comments by the editors,
1:235) may be related to several other collections, including Stanford. There
are many fascinating details in these papyri that can hardly be summarized
here. Suffice it to say that Volume 1, presenting 44 Greek and ten demotic
Egyptian papyri, is one of the most significant volumes of Ptolemaic papyri to
be published in decades. The texts are extremely well edited and presented in
a user-friendly format, with Greek or demotic transcription on the left hand
side and translations on the right. Most of the texts also receive healthy commentary. Five photographs are provided but these are more for the purposes
of providing an impression of the layout of some of the texts. Fortunately, very
high quality digital images can be viewed by following the URL links provided
at the beginning of each edition.
The texts hardly present a uniform Ptolemaic system, and that is an important observation. The local nature of the Ptolemaic census, shown by the
two languages used, and in the variety of vocabulary and administrative practice deployed, reveals an important aspect of Ptolemaic state building, viz.
that it was established on many local traditions. As is becoming increasingly
clear, there were both environmental and historical limitations to Ptolemaic
1J.G. Manning (JGM) discusses vol. 1, and Walter Scheidel (WS) vol. 2.
2 See already the brief comments by E.G. Turner in CAH 7 (1984) 146-147.