The Parsons Papyrology Exhibit Case has been completed! Made possible by a generous gift by Gardner and Ann Parsons, the Parsons Case is dedicated to the permanent exhibit of material from the Papyrology Collection. It guarantees that the Papyrology Collection will always have at least one piece of ancient papyrus on display for public viewing. The Parsons Papyrology Exhibit Case is located in the Audubon Room on the first floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library.
Proclaiming Emancipation: The Exhibit
On Exhibit (October 15th - February 18th, 2012)
This exhibit marks the 150th anniversary of the America Civil War, and examines the history and memory of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. In conjunction with this exhibit, the Papyrology Collection is exhibiting artifacts in the Parsons Case that attest to the system of manumission in the Roman world. Slavery in the Roman world differed from modern slavery in that it was not based on race. Anyone could be enslaved due to warfare, debt, or other unfortunate circumstances. Because slaves were drawn from the same populations that enslaved them and they often looked like everyone else, the Romans developed a system to reintegrate slaves into society. Slaves could be freed by their masters through manumission. This gave them Roman citizenship, with the exception that they could not hold public office. The children of freedmen had full Roman citizenship with no limitations. Once manumitted, the freedman, or libertus, would take the name of his former master and become their client, often engaging in business with their former master. There are accounts of freedmen becoming incredibly wealthy, mostly as traders and merchants. These professions were not considered seemly for Roman elites to directly engage in, so often with the financial backing of their former masters freedmen would fill that role. The objects displayed here attest to the social mobility that could be possible for slaves and freedmen in the Roman world.
Loan of money from a freedman
P.Mich.inv. 182 - Theadelphia, Egypt - October 12th, 224 C.E.
This papyrus contains a contract by which Aurelius Kaetis, son of Neilos, acknowledges to have borrowed a sum of money from the freedman Aurelius Jieron, interest free, for one year. Aurelius Hieron was formerly the slave of Aurelius Poseidonius, who had served as the city clerk of Alexandria. Upon gaining his freedom, Aurelius Hieron seems to have been able to accumulate some amount of wealth. It is notable that this particular loan is interest-free, indicating that it was made with the intention of giving assistance rather than making profit.
Themistou meris, acknowledges that he has received from hand to hand from Aurelius Hieron, freedman of Aurelius Poseidonios, ex-hypomnematographos of the most glorious city of Alexandria, and however he is styled, the capital sum of one hundred fifty-two silver drachmas in loan for one year from the present month of Phaophi; and Aurelius Kaetis shall of necessity return to Aurelius Hieron the afore stated capital interest-free in the month of Thoth next year without delay; and he (Hieron) shall on demand have right of execution against Aurelius Kaetis and all his property as if in consequence of a court decision; and when formally questioned he (Kaetis) so declared.
Kaetis, about 30 years old, with a scar on the right shin.
Year 4 of Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Pius Felix Augustus, Phaophi 15.
Freedman's certificate recorded on wooden tablets.
P. Mich.inv. 22183 and 22184. Latin – Unknown provenance, Egypt – 4th century C.E.
These two wooden tablets were once attached at a hinge and sealed to protect its contents. They contain the receipt certifying that the former owner of a slave paid the 5% tax (vicesima) due for the freeing (manumissio). Upon being freed, the slave Hermes, as was customary, became a Roman citizen and took the family name (gens) of his former master, Antonius. The scribe receiving the payment and recording it is an imperial slave himself and confirms the importance of slaves (and freedmen) in running the government of the Roman Empire.
Antonius Hermes, freedman of Antonius, 40 years old, manumitted by the claim of his free status [by Antonius - - - in the tribunal of - - -], prefect of Egypt has paid 20 <denarii> for the 5% tax on manumissions of the Roman people. I, Chalcedonius, slave of our (lords) Augusti, have received (it) from Antonius(?) [---]