Minutes of a Legal Proceeding:
A Widow, Orphans, and the Evil Eye

Language: Greek
Medium: papyrus
Length: 20 lines of writing
Genre: Official Edict
Date: 280-281 CE
Place of Discovery: Theadelphia, Egypt
Date of Discovery: ?
Current Location: ?
Inventory Number: P.Thead. 15

(Readable as Greek if
the "Symbol" font is installed)
(from Hunt & Edgar 1934:208-11)
by K. C. Hanson

(adapted from Hunt & Edgar)
EtouV V tou kuriou hmwn Markou Aurhliou Probou Sebastou en tw Arsinoith pro bhmatoV
IsidwroV apo sunhgoriwn eipen ArtemiV epitugcanei duo mhnwn kaqestuih kai oi paideV oi ajhlikeV prosedreuousin sou tw dikasthriw prosedreuousin de ek keleusewV tou diashmotatou hgemonoV anapemyantoV to pragma epi se ina thn bian kwlushV thn de bian pollakiV pareqemeqa dia twn swn upomnhmatwn Supriwn gar meta ton qanaton tou patroV twn paidwn epofqalmiasaV toiV qremmasin toiV upo tou patroV autwn katalifqeisin poimhn gar etugcanen exhkonta onta ton ariqmon hrpasen kai su aganakthsaV ekeleusaV autw tw Suriwni parasthsai touV poimenaV meq wn epoimainen o twn paidwn pathr kai Aunhn kai ton adelfon autou ina outwV mhdemiaV amfisbhthsewV oushV apokatastaqh toiV paidioiV ta probata all ora ti diaprattetai o Suriwn antiprattei toiV upo sou keleusqeisin kai toiV upo thV hgemoniaV kai dia touto kai nun marturomeqa opwV hdh pote keleleushV auton acqhnai kai apodounai toiV paidioiV a hrpasen
o epitropoV epen epeidh Suriwn eiV ta anagkaiotera ta tw tamieiw diaferonta apestaltai oson oudepw epanelqwn apokriqhsetai proV ta epiferonta autw
IsidwroV apo sunhgoriwn epen ean oun fugodikhsh
AurhlioV HrakleidhV o kratistoV epistrathgoV eipen enteucqeiV oron dwsw
A few words have been reconstructed by the editors.
The sixth year of our lord, Marcus Aurelius Probus Augustus , in the Arsinoite nome , at court.
Isidorus, an advocate, said, "Artemis has appeared before you two months ago; and her sons, who are minors, are attending your court. They do this in consequence of the order of the most honorable prefect who has referred the case to you, in order that you may put a stop to an act of violence which we have several times placed on record in your minutes. For Syrion, after the death of the boys' father, cast an evil eye on the animals left by their father (who was a shepherd), and he seized them to the number of sixty. And you, struck with indignation, ordered Syrion to produce the shepherds with whom the boys' father associated, both Aunes and his brother, in order that, if the facts were not disputed, the sheep should be returned to the children. But see how Syrion is acting: he resists your orders and those of the prefect. And, therefore, we yet again call upon you to order at once that he be brought before you and made to turn over to the children what he stole."
The representative (of Syrion) said: "Syrion has been dispatched on pressing business affecting the Treasury, but the moment he returns he will reply to the charges against him."
Isodorus, the advocate, said, "What if he should flee from justice?"
The most excellent Aurelius Heraclides, the epistrategus , said, "If you petition, I will grant a limit."
Marcus Aurelius Probus was Emperor of Rome 276–282 CE.

A "nome" was an Egyptian administrative district.

An "epistrategus" was one of three district governors who reported to the Roman Prefect of Egypt.


    1. What was the social position of widows and orphans in the ancient Mediterranean? Why did they have such a difficult time with legal issues?

    2. What role does the "evil eye" play in this case? What is the connection between the evil eye and theft?
    3. Compare and contrast the situation of Artemis in this document with the situation of the widow in Jesus' parable (Luke 18:1-8). With the widow from Shunem helped by Elisha (2 Kgs 8:1-6)? With the widow Babatha and her son Jesus in the "Babatha Archives"?
    4. Click here to read an ancient Hebrew document concerning a widow's legal petition for land rights.


    Elliott, John H. "The Evil Eye and the Sermon on the Mount: Contours of a Pervasive Belief in Social Scientific Perspective." Biblical Interpretation 2 (1994) 51-84.

    Elliott, John H. "The Evil Eye in the First Testament: The Ecology and Culture of a Pervasive Belief." In The Bible and the Politics of Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Norman K. Gottwald on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Edited by D. Jobling et al., 147-59. Cleveland: Pilgrim, 1991.
    Elliott, John H. "The Fear of the Leer. The Evil Eye from the Bible to Li'l Abner." Forum 4/4 (1988) 42-71.
    Fensham, F. C. "Widow, Orphan, and the Poor." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 21 (1962) 129-39.
    Gottwald, Norman K. "The Plot Structure of Marvel or Problem Resolution Stories in the Elijah-Elisha Narratives and Some Musings on Sitz im Leben." In The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, 119-30. Semeia Studies. Atlanta: Scholars, 1993.
    Hiebert, Paula S. "'Whence Shall Help Come to Me?': The Biblical Widow." In Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel. Edited by P. L. Day, 125-41. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.
    Hoffner, Harry A. "Almanah." In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Edited by G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, 1.287-91. Translated by J. T. Willis. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
    Hunt, A. S. and C. C. Edgar. Select Papyri. Vol. 2: Non-Literary Papyri; Public Documents. Loeb Classical Library 282. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1934.
    Lewis, Naphtali. The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters: Greek Papyri. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1989.

Return to Palestine in the Time of Jesus

Return to K. C. Hanson's Collection of Greek Documents

Return to K. C. Hanson's HomePage

Last Modified: 7 June 2004