Marriage Contract
from Elephantine, Egypt:
Herakleides & Demetria

Language: Greek
Medium: papyrus
Length: 18 lines
Size: 40 cm high
35 cm wide
Genre: marriage contract
Date: August/September 310 B.C.E.
Place of discovery: Elephantine, Egypt
(ancient Yeb)
Date of discovery: February 12, 1906
Excavation Director: Otto Rubensohn
Present location: Staatliche Museen,
Berlin, Germany
Identification numbers: P. Eleph. 1
P. Berlin 13500

(Hunt & Edgar 1932:2,4)

(Adapted from Hunt & Edgar 1932:3,5
and Porten 1996:408-10)

Alexandrou tou Alexandrou basileuontoV etei ebdomwi Ptolemaiou satrapeuontoV etei tesareskaidekatwi mhnoV Diou.
Suggrafh sunoikisiaV Hrakleidou kai DhmhtriaV.
Lambanei HrakleidhV Dhmhtrian Kwian gunaika gnhsian para tou patroV Leptinou Kwiou kai thV mhtroV FilwtidoV eleuqeroV eleuqeran prosferomenhn eimatismon kai kosmon (dracmwn ciliwn) parecetw de HrakleidhV Dhmhtriai osa proshkei gunaiki eleuqerai panta einai
de hmaV kata tauto opou an dokhi ariston einai bouleuomenoiV koinhi boulhi Leptinhi kai Hrakleidhi. Eian de ti kakotecnousa aliskhtai epi aiscunhi tou androV Hrakleidou Dhmhtria steresqw wm proshnegkato pantwn epideixatw de HrakleidhV o ti an egkalhi Dhmhtriai enantion andrwn triwn ouV an dokimazwsin amfoteroi.
Mh ecestw de Hrakleidhi gunaika allhn epeisagesqai ef ubrei DhmhtriaV mhde teknopoieisqai ex allhV gunaikoV mhde kakotecnein mhden pareuresei mhdemiai Hrakleidhn eiV Dhmhtrian. Eian de ti pown toutwn aliskhtai HrakleidhV kai epideixhi Dhmhtria enantion andrwn triwn ouV an dokimazwsin amfoteroi apodotw HrakleidhV Dhmhtriai thm fernhn hn proshnegkato (dracmaV ciliaV) kai prosapoteisatw arguriou Alexandreiou (dracmaV ciliaV). H de praxiV estw kaqaper eg dikhV kata nomon teloV ecoushV Dhmhtriai kai toiV meta DhmhtriaV prassousin ek te autou Hrakleidou kai twn Hrakleidou pantwn kai eggaiwn kai nautikwn.
H de suggrafh hde kuria estw panthi pantwV wV ekei tou sunallag- matoV gegenhmenou opou an epegferhi HrakleidhV kata DhmhtriaV h Dhmhtria te kai toi meta DhmhtriaV prassonteV epegferwsin kata Hrakleidou.
Kurioi de estwsan HrakleidhV kai Dhmhtria kai taV suggrafaV autoi taV autwn fulassonteV kai epegferonteV kat allhlwn.
  • Klewn GelwioV
  • AntikrathV ThmnithV
  • LusiV ThmnithV
  • DionusioV ThmnithV
  • AristomacoV KurhnaioV
  • AristodikoV KwioV.

    The words in parentheses are supplied by the editors.

In the seventh year of the reign of Alexander the son of Alexander, in the fourteenth year of the satrapship of Ptolemy, in the month of Dios.
Contract of marriage of Herakleides and Demetria.
Herakleides, a free man, takes Demetria, a free woman of Cos, as his legitimate wife from her father Leptines of Cos and from her mother Philotis, bringing clothing and jewelry (worth) 1000 drachmas. Let Herakleides provide to Demetria everything pertaining to a free wife.
(They said), "We shall (reside) in the same place wherever Leptines and Herakleides, deciding together in joint decision, decide." If Demetria is discovered doing any evil to the shame of her husband Heraklides, let her be deprived of everything she brought (to the marriage); but let Herkleides prove whatever he sues Demetria about before three men on whom they both agree.
Herakleides shall not be permitted to bring in another woman as an outrage to Demetria, nor to have children by another woman, nor to deal deceitfuly in any way on any pretense, Herakleides against Demetria. If Herakleides is discovered doing any of these things and Demetria proves it before three men of whom they both designate, Herakleides shall return the dowry of 1000 drachmas to Demetria which she brought and let him indemnify her in addition with 1000 drachmas of the silver (coinage) of Alexander. Let the execution be upon Herakleides himself and upon all the property of Herakleides, both on land and sea, for Demetria and those executing along with Demetria, as if from litigation legally completed.
This contract shall be valid in every respect everywhere, as if the covenant had been made there—wherever Herakleides may produce it against Demetria, or Demetria and those executing with Demetria may bring it out against Herakleides.
Herakleides and Demetria shall be in control, keeping their own contracts themselves and bringing them out against each other.
  • Cleon a Gelan
  • Antikrates a Temnian
  • Lysis a Temnian
  • Dionysios a Temnian
  • Aristomachos a Cyrenaean
  • Aristodikos a Coan

    1. How did dowries function in the ancient Mediterranean? See Hanson and Oakman (1998:37-43)?

    2. Was this a relatively large or small dowry?

    3. What protections did Demetria have in the contract?

    4. What functions would the signatures of witness have on such a document?


Goody, Jack. The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia. Studies in Literacy, Family, Culture and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990.

Hanson, K. C. "The Herodians and Mediterranean Kinship. II: Marriage and Divorce." Biblical Theology Bulletin 19 (1989):.

Hanson, K. C. "The Herodians and Mediterranean Kinship. III: Economics." Biblical Theology Bulletin 20 (1990):.

Hanson, K. C. and Douglas E. Oakman. Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.

Hunt, A. S. and C. C. Edgar. Select Papyri. Vol. 1: Non-Literary Papyri Private Affairs. Loeb Classical Library 281. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1932.

Pestman, P. W. Marriage and Matrimonial Property in Ancient Egypt: Contribution to Establishing the Legal Position of the Woman. Papyrologia Lugduno-Batava 9. Leiden: Brill, 1961.

Porten, Bezalel. The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millenennia of Cross-Cultural Continuity and Change. Documenta et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui 22. Leiden: Brill, 1996.


Return to Palestine in the Time of Jesus

Return to K. C. Hanson's HomePage

Last Modified: 30 April 2002