Abstract: Cops and Robbers, Egyptian Style: Police Work in Ptolemaic Egypt


Throughout the nearly 300 years of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt (330–30 B.C.), victims of crime in all areas of the Egyptian countryside called upon local police officials to investigate crimes, hold trials and arrest, question and sometimes even imprison wrongdoers. In this lecture I will examine the evidence for four of the main areas of police activity—arrest, investigation, detention and resolution—via case studies. As will become clear over the course of the lecture, the police system in place to tend to the needs of Egyptian villagers was efficient, effective and largely independent of central government controls.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Bauschatz, J.F. 2007. “The Strong Arm of the Law? Police Corruption in Ptolemaic Egypt." CJ 103.1: 13–39.

Davies, R.W. 1973. “The Investigation of Some Crimes in Roman Egypt.” AncSoc 4: 199–212.

McGing, B. 1998. "Bandits, Real and Imagined, in Greco-Roman Egypt." BASP 35: 159–83.

Thompson, D.J. 1997. “Policing the Ptolemaic Countryside.” In Akten des 21. Internationalen Papyrologenkongresses, Berlin, 13.–19.8.1995. B. Kramer, W. Luppe, H. Maehler and G. Poethke, eds. Stuttgart; Leipzig: Teubner. 961–6.

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