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Ancient Egypt: Aramaic Papyri from Elephantine
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Aramaic Papyri from Elephantine

Mibtahiah's first marriage

- Date: 459 BCE
On the 21st of Chisleu, that is the 1st of Mesore, year 6 of King Artaxerxes, Mahseiah son of Yedoniah, a Jew of Elephantine, of the detachment of Haumadata, said to Jezaniah son of Uriah of the said detachment as follows: There is the site of a house belonging to me, west of the house belonging to you, which I have given to your wife, my daughter Mibtahiah, and in respect of which I have written her a deed. The measurements of the house in question are 8 cubits and a handbreadth 5 by 11, by the measuring-rod. -Chisleu: Month in the Babylonian-Aramaic calendar, still in existence as the Hebrew month of Kislev, about November/December
-Mesore: 4th month of Shemu
-Artaxerxes: Artaxerxes I (465-424)
-cubit: about half a metre
-handbreadth: about 8 cm
-measuring-rod: measuring rods were often one royal cubit (52 cm) long and divided into 7 palms, or - rarely after the Late Period - one small cubit (45 cm) long and divided into 6 palms.
The house measured 4¼ by 5¾ metres.
Now do I, Mahseiah, say to you: Build and equip that site . . . and dwell thereon with your wife. But you may not sell that house or give it as a present to others; only your children by my daughter Mibtahiah shall have power over it after you two. If tomorrow or some other day you build upon this land, and then my daughter divorces you and leaves you, she shall have no power to take it or give it to others; only your children by 10 Mibtahiah shall have power over it, in return for the work which you shall have done. If, on the other hand, she recovers from you, she [may] take half of the house, and [the] othe[r] half shall be at you; disposal in return for the building which you will have done on that house. And again as to that half, your children by Mibtahiah shall have power over it after you. If tomorrow or another day I should institute suit or process against you and say I did not give you this land to build on and did not draw up this deed for you, I 15 shall give you a sum of 10 karshin by royal weight, at the rate of 2 R to the ten, and no suit or process shall lie.
This deed was written by 'Atharshuri son of Nabuzeribni in the fortress of Syene at the dictation of Mahseiah.
Witnesses hereto
(signatures).
Translator: H. L. Ginsberg
Pritchard, James B. ; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 222
-If, on the other hand, she recovers from you: Apparently meaning if you divorce her
-karshin: plural of karash. A karash is 10 heavy shekels or 20 light ones.
-R: Probably stands for rub'in - "quarters"
-Syene: Aswan

Liquidation of Mibtahiah's second marriage: Settlement of claim by oath

Date: 440 BCE
On the 14th of Ab, being the 19th day of Pahons, in the year 25 of King Artaxerxes, Pi’ the son of Pahi (Phy), builder of the fortress of Syene, said to Mibtahiah, daughter of Maheseiah the son of Yedoniah, an Aramean of Syene of the detachment of Varizata (as follows): "In accordance with the action which we took at Syene, let us make a division of the silver, grain, raiment, bronze, iron, and all goods and possessions and marriage contract. Then an oath was imposed upon you, and you swore to me concerning them by the goddess Sati. I was satisfied with the oath which you took to me concerning your goods, and I renounce all claim on you from this day for ever."
Pritchard, James B. ; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 491
By marrying an Egyptian Mibtahiah accepted local traditions and swore by an Egyptian goddess.
-Ab: Aramaic month, about July
-Pahons: the first month of Shemu
-Sati: Satis was the Lady of Elephantine, wife of Khnum, Dispenser of the Water which she offered to the deceased for purification. When Khnum was merged with Re, she became the Eye of Re and a goddess of love.
 

Contract of Mibtahiah's third marriage oath

Date: 440 BCE
On the 2[5]th of Tishri, that is the 6th day of the month Epiphi, [year . . . of] Kin[g Artaxerx]es, said Ashor son of [Seho], builder to the king, to Mah[seiah, A]ramean of Syene, of the detachment of Varizata, as follows: "I have [co]me to your house that you might give me your daughter Mipht(ah)iah in marriage. She is my wife and I am her husband from this day for ever. I have given you as the bride-price 5 of your daughter Miphtahiah (a sum of) 5 shekels, royal weight. It has been received by you and your heart is content therewith." -Tishri: Aramaic month, about September
-Epiphi: the 3rd month of Shemu
-[Seho]: The name of Ashor's father is preserved in another document. He eventually adopted the Hebrew name of Nathan.
6-16 (Miphtahiah's dowry.) The dowry is itemized and the value of each item given. The bride-price was added to the dowry, becoming part of the wife's personal property, which was to be administered by her husband. Dowries consisted mostly of personal items.
17 Should Ashor die tomorrow or an[othe]r day having no child, male or female, by his wife Mi[phtah]iah, Miphtahiah shall be entitled to the house, chattels and all worldly goods of Ashor.
20 Should Miphtahiah die tomorrow or (another) day having no child, male or female, by her husband Ashor, Ashor shall inherit her property and chattels.
Should [Miph]tahiah, tomorrow [or] another [d]ay stand up in a congregation and say, I divorce my husband Ashor, the price of divorce shall be upon her head: she shall sit by the balance and weigh out to [As]hor a sum of 7 shekels 2 R. But all that which she has brought in
25 with her she shall take out, shred and thread, and go whither she will, without suit or process.
Should Ashor tomorrow or another day stand up in a congregation and say, I divorce my [wif]e Miphtahiah, [he shall] forfeit her bride-price, and all that she has brought in with her she shall take out, shred and thread, on one day at one stroke, and shall go whither she will, without suit or process.
And [whoever] arises against Miphtahiah
30 to drive her away from the house, possessions, and chattels of Ashor shall give her the sum of 20 karash, and the law of this deed shall [ . . . ] for her. And I shall have no right to say I have another wife besides Mipht(ah)iah or other children besides any Miphtahiah may bear to me. If I say I have chi[ldren] and wife other than Miphtiah and her children, I shall give to Miphtahiah a su[m] of 20 karash, royal weight. 35 Neither shall I have the right to [wre]st my property and chattels from Miph[tah]iah. If I take them away from her (erasure), I shall give to Miphtahiah [a sum of] 20 karash, royal weight.
[This deed] was written by Nathan son of Ananiah [at the dictation of Ashor].
Witnesses:
(signatures).
Pritchard, James B. ; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 222f.
-7 shekels 2 R.: 7½ shekels, 1.5 times the bride-price.

Manumission of a female slave and her daughter

Date: June 12, 427 BCE
1 On the 20th of Siwan, that is the 7th day of Phamenoth, the year 38 of King Artaxerxes - at that time, 2 Meshullam son of Zakkur, a Jew of the fortress Elephantine, of the detachment of Arpakhu said to the woman Tapmut (as she is called), 3 his slave, who has on her right hand the marking "Of Meshullam", as follows: I have taken kindly thought of you 4 in my lifetime. I hereby declare you released at my death and likewise declare released the daughter Yehoyishma' (as she is called) whom 5 you have borne to me.
No son or daughter, close or distant relative, kinsman, or clansman of mine
6 has any right to you or to the daughter Yehoyishma' whom you have borne to me; none has any right 7 to mark you or to deliver you as a payment of money. Whoever attempts such action against you or the daughter Yehoyishma' 8 whom you have borne to me must pay you a fine of 50 karsh of silver by the king's weights. You are released, with your daughter Yehoyishma', from the shade for the sun, and no other man is master 10 of you or your daughter Yehoyishma'. You are released for God.
-Siwan: Aramaic month, about June
-Phamenoth: 3rd month of Peret
-his slave: according to another extant contract Tapmut was acquired 22 years previously. Children of slaves inherited their parents' status. (cf. Slavery)
-the marking "Of Meshullam": slaves at that time were apparently tattooed with their owner's name.
-you have borne to me: not necessarily meaning she was her owner's natural daughter, but rather his property. Cases of offspring of slaves being adopted by their owners are known (cf. the Adoption Papyrus.)
-from the shade for the sun: from the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.
11 And Tapmut and her daughter Yehoyishma' declared: We shall serve you [a]s a son or daughter supports his or her father 12 as long as you live; and when you die, we shall support your son Zakkur like a son who supports his father, just as we shall have been doing 13 for you while you were alive. (....) If we ever say, "We will not support you as a son supports 14 his father, and your son Zakkur after your death," we shall be liable to you and your son Zakkur for a fine 15 in the amount of 50 karsh of refined silver by the king's weights without suit or process.
Written by Haggai
16 the scribe, at Elephantine, at the dictation of Meshullam son of Zakkur, the witnesses herein being: Atarparan son of Nisai 17 the Mede; witness Micaiah son of Ahio; witness Berechiah son of Miptah; witness Dalah son of Gaddul.
 
(Endorsement) Quit-claim written by Meshullam son of Zakkur to Tapmut and Yehoyishma['].
Translated by H. L. Ginsberg
Pritchard, James B. ; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 548.
-We shall serve you: the former slaves' obligations towards their former owner's family were not ended by the manumission.
-the witnesses herein being: the witnesses did not sign themselves, but were listed by the scribe.

Marriage contract of a former slave girl who is subject to paramoné

Date: 420 BCE
-paramoné: In the Hellenist culture the obligation of a freed slave to perform services for his former master
1 On (the first day of) the month of Tishri, that is Epiphi, the year 4 of King Darius, in the fortress Elephantine, said Ananiah son of Haggai, 2 an Aramean of the fortress Elephantine, [of] the detachment of [Iddin]-Nabu, to Zakkur son of Me[shullam, an Arame]an of Syene, of the same detachment, as follows: 3 I have come to your [hous]e and asked you for your sister the woman Yehoyishma' (as she is called) in marriage, and you have given her 4 to me. She is my wife and I am [her] husband from this day to eternity. I have paid to you as the bride price of your sister Yehoyishma' 5 1 karsh of silver; you have received it [and have been satisfied therewi]th. Your sister Yehoyishma' has brought into my house a cash sum 6a of two karsh, (two) 2 shekels, and 5 hallurs of silver, . . .
(Lines 6b-13a, defective, a list of probably 12 articles of wool and linen with their respective values; 13b-15a, 5 articles of copper with their respective values; 15b missing.)
15c [Garments and articles of co]pper with the cash and the bride price: seven (that is, 7) karsh, eight (that is, 8) shekels, and 5 hallurs of silver by the king's 17a weights, silver of 2 R to the ten.
(17b-21aa, containers of palm leaves, reeds, wood, and stone and quantities of various sorts of oil—no values specified.)
-Darius: Darius II (423-405 BCE)
-your sister the woman Yehoyishma: not necessarily a real sister of Zakkur. When Yehoyishma' was freed she took upon herself to act like a descendant of Meshullam, father of Zakkur.
21 If at some future date Ananiah should arise in an/the assembly and declare, "I divorce my wife Yehoyishma'; 22 she shall not be a wife to me," he shall become liable for divorce money. He shall forfeit her bride price, he must surrender to her all that she brought into his house. Her dowry of cash 23 and clothing, worth karsh seven, sh[ekels eight, and hallurs 5] of silver, and the rest of the goods listed (above) 24a-b he must hand over to her on one day and in a single act, and she may [leave him for where]ver [she will]....
24c If, on the other hand, Yehoyishma' should divorce her husband 25 Ananiah and say to him, "I divorce you, I will not be wife to you," she shall become liable for divorce money. 26 She shall sit by the scales and weigh out to her husband Ananiah 7 shekels and 2 R and shall leave him with the balance of her 27 cash, goods, and pos[sessions, worth karsh 7; shekels 5+]3, and hallurs 5; and the rest of her goods, 28 which are listed (above), he shall hand over to her on one day and in a single act, and she shall depart for her father's house.
If Ananiah should die having no male or 29 female child from his wife [Yehoyi]shma', Yehoyishma' shall be [mistress] of his [pr]operty: of his house, his goods, 30 his possession, [and all that he owns. Anyone who] attempts to banish Yehoyishma' from his house, [goods, possessions], and all that [he] owns, [shall p]ay to [her a fi]ne of silver, 32 twenty karsh by [the king's] weights, silver of 2 R to the 10 and shall accord [her] her due under this deed without lawsuit.
33 However, Yeh[oyishma'] is not permitted [to] acquire a husband other [than] Anani. Should she do so, 34 that shall constitute a divorce, and [the provisions for divorcement] shall be applied to [her].
(So, too,) if [Yehoyishma'] should die having no
35 [male] or female child by [her] hus[band] Anani, [Anani] shall inherit from her her [cash], goods, possessions, and all 36 that she own[s]. And [Anani] likewise [may] no[t ta]ke any woman [other than his wife Yehoyishma'] 37 in marriage. Should he do [so, that shall constitute a divorce, and the provisions for di]vorcement [shall be applied to him].
Further, Ananiah 38 may not omit to accord to his wife Yehoyishma' the right of any of the wives of his fellows. Should 39 he fail to do so, that shall constitute a divorce, and he shall implement for her the provisions for divorcement.
Neither may Yehoyishma'
40 omit to accord to her husband Ananiah the right of any (husband). Should she fail to accord it to him, that shall constitute a divorce.
-the right of any of the wives of his fellows: conjugal rights
Further, 41 Zakkur may not say with reference to [his] sister], "I gave those [goo]ds to Yehoyishma' gratis; now I wish 42 to take them back." If he speaks [thus], no attention shall be paid to him; he is in the wrong.
This deed was written by Ma'uziah son of Nathan 43 at the dictation of Ananiah son of Haggai [and] Zakkur son of Meshullam, and the witnesses thereto are:
(There follow the names of six witnesses and those of their fathers, making twelve names in all, of which nine are preserved, all of them Jewish, and all of them in the handwriting of the scribe.)
Translated by H. L. Ginsberg
Pritchard, James B. ; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 548f.

 


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