Marriage Contract
from Egypt:
Thermion & Apollonius

Language: Greek
Medium: Papyrus
Length: 21 lines
Size: ? cm high
? cm wide
Genre: marriage contract
Date: April 17, 13 B.C.E.
Place of discovery: Egypt
Date of discovery: ?
Present location: Berlin
Identification no.: B.G.U. 1052
(Berliner griechischen Urkunken)

(Hunt & Edgar 1932)

(Adapted from Hunt & Edgar 1932)

A few letters have been reconstructed by the editors.

The words in parentheses are supplied by the editors to clarify the implicit formulas.

To: Protarchus
From: Thermion, daughter of Apion, along with her guardian Apollonius, son of Chaereas; and from Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus

Thermion and Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus agree that they have come together to share a common life. And the said Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, acknowledges that he has received from Thermion by hand from the house a dowry of a pair of gold earrings weighing three quarters and [- - -] silver drachmai.
And from now on, Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, shall provide Thermion as his wife all necessaries and clothing in proportion to his means and shall not mistreat her, nor throw her out, nor bring in another wife, or he shall directly forfeit the dowry increased by half with right of execution upon both the person of Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, and all his property as if by legal decision.
And Thermion shall fulfill her duties towards her husband and their common life and shall not leave the house for a night or a day without the consent of Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, nor dishonor, nor injure their common home, nor consort with another man, or she—if guilty of any of these deeds—shall after trial, forfeit the dowry, and in addition the guilty party shall be liable to the prescribed fine.
17h year of Caesar, Pharmouthi 20.

Caesar here refers to Augustus, who ruled the Roman Empire 30 B.C.E.—14 C.E.

A drachma (plural: drachmai) was the Greek term for a coin. After the Emperor Augustus, the tetradrach (=4 drachmae) was approximately equivilent to the Roman denarius. (For biblical examples, see, for example: Tobit 5:14; 2 Maccabees 12:43; Luke 15:8).

Pharmouthi was the name of an Egyptian month (in the modern calendar, from March 27 to April 25).

    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 for this period?

    3. For a divorce document from this same year, click here.


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.


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Last Modified: 30 April 2002