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Select Papyri, 2.271B


PETITION FROM THE SERAPEUM TWINS

Greek text:  PPar 26   (UPZ 1 42)
Date: 163/2 B.C.

Translated by G.Mulligan, "Selections from the Greek papyri", page 12, no.5; part of his introduction to the petition is reproduced here.

Of the Serapeum documents that have been recovered, the greater number refer to the grievances of two girls, twins, by name Thaues and Thaus or Taous. Their story has been graphically reconstructed by Kenyon (British Museum Papyri 1, p. 2 ff.). Here we can only notice that the twins acted as attendants in the Serapeum, and were consequently entitled to a certain allowance of oil and bread. For some reason this allowance was withheld in B.C. 164-2, and accordingly we find them with the assistance of their friend Ptolemy, son of Glaucias, one of the Serapeum recluses, presenting various petitions for the restitution of their rights. Amongst these is the following document, in which, apparently for the third time, they addressed themselves directly to King Ptolemy Philometor and Queen Cleopatra, on the occasion of a royal visit to Memphis, with the result that, as later reports prove, the temple officers were at length stirred up to look into the matter, and the twins recovered most, if not all, of what was due to them.



To King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra the sister, gods Philometores, greeting. We, Thaues and Taous, the twin-sisters who minister in the great Serapeum at Memphis, on a former occasion when you were in residence at Memphis and had gone up to the temple to sacrifice petitioned you, and gave in a petition, bringing before you our plea that we are not receiving the contribution of necessaries which it is fitting should be given to us both from the Serapeum and the Asclepeum. And having failed to receive them up to the present time in full, we have been compelled, under pressure of necessity, wasting away as we are through starvation, to petition you again, and in a few words to set before you the selfishness of those who are injuring us. For although you already from former times have proclaimed a contribution for the Serapeum and Asclepeum, and in consequence of this the twins who were there before us daily received what they required, to us also when we first went up to the temple straightway for a few days the impression was conveyed as if everything fitting would be done for us in good order, but for the remainder of the time this was not carried out. Wherefore we both sent repeatedly to the supervisors persons to petition on our behalf, and laid information on these matters before you, on the occasion of your visits to Memphis. And when those who had been appointed to the administration in the Serapeum and Asclepeum had insolently maltreated us, and were removing the privileges conferred on us by you, and were paying no regard to religious scruple, and when we were being crushed by our wants, we often made representations even to Achomarres the supervisor of the temple to give us our rights. And we approached the son of Psintaēs the supervisor of the sacrifices, when he went up to the temple the day before yesterday, and gave him detailed information. And having called Achomarres to him, he strictly commanded him to give what was owing to us. And he, being by nature the most unfeeling of all mankind, promised us that he would perform what he had been directed to do, but no sooner had the son of Psintaēs departed from Memphis than he took no further account of the matter. And not only this man, but also others connected with the Serapeum, and others connected with the Asclepeum in the administration, from whom it is usual for us to receive what we need, are defrauding, whose names and obligations, because they are numerous, we have decided not to record.

We beg you therefore, having as our one hope the assistance that lies in your power, to send away our petition to Dionysius, one of the friends of the king and strategos, that he may write to Apollonius the supervisor to compel them to render to us what is owing, when he has received from us the written list of the necessaries owing to us and what further debts are due us along with the periods fo which they have been owing and the persons who owe them, so that, when we have everything in order, we may be much better able to perform our regular duties to Serapis and to Isis, both for your own sakes and for the sake of your children. May it be given you to hold fast all the territory you desire. Farewell.

papyrus 272


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