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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Egypt and Rome          .                285
cumulative testimony enabled the historian to draw a picture
of the Roman administration of Egypt with a wealth of detail
which is, and always will be, impossible for any other province
of the empire.
Many of the topics illustrated by the papyri are of more than
local bearing, and the contribution made by the Egyptian docu-
ments to these well illustrates the incomparably larger scale on
which the picture of ancient life can be drawn in Egypt than
elsewhere. The Romans were essentially a military people and
have left many records of their army. Its greatest work was
achieved along the banks of the Rhine and Danube: yet it is the
militarily negligible province of Egypt that furnishes us with
our only intimate glimpse into army life. Here we can read the
pay-sheets of the soldiers, and see how much they had left when
all deductions for rations, uniforms, and arms had been made,
and how they spent it. We possess the daily records of the units,
which enumerate the several duties to which the men were
detailed day by day. We see them going out to the villages to
requisition corn, wine, oil, and meat for rations, and horses and
camels for remounts. Finally we can follow their careers when,
after their discharge, they settled down on the farms which
the government granted to them as a reward for faithful
service.
Roman law is again a subject on which we are, thanks to the
literary tradition, exceptionally well informed. Yet even here
the papyri have added enormously to our knowledge, more
especially of the practical workings of the Roman legal system.
The papyri tell us how contracts were drawn up, how plaintiffs
instituted proceedings, how evidence was heard; we possess
many dossiers of actual cases. They illustrate moreover one
topic on which the literary legal texts tell us practically nothing,
the way in which the Romans administered the Hellenistic law
of the East, gradually infusing into it some of their own prin-
ciples, and the complementary process whereby, after Roman