ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 47 (2010) 359-364 Roger S. Bagnall and Raffaella Cribiore, Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt 300 BC-AD 800, with contributions by Evie Ahtaridis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006. xiii + 421 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-472-11506-8; ISBN-10: 0472-11506-5. Roger Bagnall and Rafaella Cribiore have collected all known (as of mid2003) letters by women on papyri or ostraca from Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt (and even a few from the early Arab era) - a period of over a millennium. The printed version of Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt, published in 2006, presents translations with brief commentary of 210 of these letters; some are illustrated by black and white reproductions. However, their work is also available as an E-book through the ACLS's History Book Project, and the electronic version includes slightly expanded introductory chapters and bibliography, an additional 104 letters (mostly Coptic ostraka or very fragmentary Greek texts), somewhat fuller commentaries, digital images of the original papyri or ostraca (most, but not all, of which can be enlarged), and a link to the Perseus website for a transcription of the Greek texts (from the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri). Interested readers will therefore wish to consult the E-book as well as (or instead of) the 2006 publication, particularly as it can be updated and enhanced continually. The electronic version also makes Women's Letters an ideal resource for courses on women and the family in the ancient world or on ancient Egypt. Even those who have only the printed version available, however, will find this a rich and invaluable source for first-hand accounts by women in Hellenistic, Roman, and late antique Egypt. Indeed, as far as non-literary writing by women in Greco-Roman antiquity goes, the letters from Egypt are unique, except for a few letters (in Latin) from Vindolanda and petitions from women found in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. Most of the letters written by women before late antiquity were in Greek, and most are from the Roman period. (There are no women's letters extant from Egypt in Latin, which was used mainly in military circles.) Very few letters by women are known from the Ptolemaic period, almost none of them in Demotic. Bagnall and Cribiore attribute this to the epistolary protocol of the time, which required an elaborate style (in Greek) appropriate to the status of the recipient. They do include several Demotic texts (more in the E-Book than in the published version), mostly from the early Roman period. Use of the Demotic script disappears after the second century, and not until the fourth century, with the rise of Coptic, is there again a vehicle available for composition in the Egyptian language. Interestingly, women take to writing in Coptic with alacrity; indeed, letters by women in Greek disappear after the fourth
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