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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Greek Papyri                       271
than for another, and as a lesson in social histoiy few things are
more instructive than to read through a series of deeds of
marriage or divorce and to observe in the former the varying
obligations assigned at different periods to husband and wife,
in the latter the purely business-like character of the earlier
documents and the somewhat long-winded pretexts of the later
ones. Or we may compare an ordinary will of the Roman period
with, for example, the donatio mortis causa of the fourth cen-
tury in which Flavius Abraham, an ex-praepositus in the Roman
army, binds himself to bequeath half his property to the holy
Church, his wife to have the use of the other half until her death
when it reverts to the Church, and gives instructions for all his
slaves, male and female, to be freed (this, however, is not un-
common in pagan wills). Such dispositions of a man of high
rank are an epitome of a whole social revolution.
To the social historian few documents are more valuable than
contracts; if we take a representative selection,1 we shall find
that each gives a vignette of life in the ancient world. In one,
a deed of adoption, the adoptive parents promise the real parents
that the child shall inherit their estate and not be reduced to
slavery; in another, two brothers set free 'under sanction of
Zeus, Earth and Sun' the third part of a female slave which
they hold jointly, the other two-thirds being already emanci-
pated; in a third, a father apprentices his son to a weaver, the
latter to feed and clothe him and the father to pay a drachma
for every day that the boy plays truant, while under the terms
of another such agreement the boy is cto sit at his teacher's feet
from sunrise to sundown', but to enjoy twenty days' holiday
with pay. Somewhat similar is the contract by which a man
places his slave with a certain Apollonius to learn shorthand,
two years being allowed the slave to learn to read and write it
perfectly. Many, as we should expect, relate to agriculture; in
1 Each of those cited below with the exception of the last will be found
ia vol. i of the Select Papyri in the Loeb Library.