What can we learn about the world of an ancient empire from the ways that people complain when they feel that they have been violated? What role did law play in people's lives? And what did they expect their government to do for them when they felt harmed and helpless?
If ancient historians have frequently written about nonelite people as if they were undifferentiated and interchangeable, Ari Z. Bryen counters by drawing on one of our few sources of personal narratives from the Roman world: over a hundred papyrus petitions, submitted to local and imperial officials, in which individuals from the Egyptian countryside sought redress for acts of violence committed against them. By assembling these long-neglected materials (also translated as an appendix to the book) and putting them in conversation with contemporary perspectives from legal anthropology and social theory, Bryen shows how legal stories were used to work out relations of deference within local communities.
Rather than a simple force of imperial power, an open legal system allowed petitioners to define their relationships with their local adversaries while contributing to the body of rules and expectations by which they would live in the future. In so doing, these Egyptian petitioners contributed to the creation of Roman imperial order more generally.
Introduction: The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life
PART I. THE TEXTURE OF THE PROBLEM
Chapter 1. Ptolemaios Complains
Chapter 2. Violent Egypt
Chapter 3. Violence, Modern and Ancient
PART II. FROM THE LANGUAGE OF PAIN TO THE LANGUAGE OF LAW
Chapter 4. Narrating Injury
Chapter 5. The Work of Law
Chapter 6. Fission and Fusion
Conclusion: Nomos and Its Narratives
Appendix A: The Papyrus on the Page
Appendix B: Translations of Petitions Concerning Violence
List of Papyri in Checklist Order
"A substantial contribution to the field of papyrology, Violence in Roman Egypt contributes an interesting analysis of the only extant documentation of this kind in antiquity, which has never before been studied from this perspective."—Sofia Torallas Tovar, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
"An extremely important study that will fundamentally change how we think about violence in Egypt and elsewhere in the Roman Empire—in fact, the way we conceive Roman rule in the provinces altogether."—Noel Lenski, University of Colorado