Republication from,


One thousand nine hundred years ago on this day, only two weeks after Hadrian’s proclamation in Antioch, the new prefect of Egypt (Praefectus Aegypi), Quintus Rammius Martialis, addressed a circular letter to the strategoi of the Egyptian districts (nomes) announcing the imperial accession of Hadrian and instructing them to declare festivities for ten days.

The document, written in Greek, has been preserved on papyrus (POxy 55.3781). It comes from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Collection which comprises the papyrus texts excavated by two young Oxford scholars, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, in the rubbish dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus in central Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th century. The manuscripts, dating from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century AD, include texts with information about the daily life and the economic affairs of the town as well as a large collection of literary works in Greek and a few in Latin. They were then brought to England and deposited in Oxford. The Egypt Exploration Society owns more than 500,000 papyrus fragments from this site which are now housed in the Sackler Library in Oxford. It is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world. After more than 100 years since their discovery, the Oxyrhynchus Papyri continue to be reconstructed from fragments and translated at Oxford University.

 Location of Oxyrhynchos in Egypt.
By NordNordWest (Oxyrhynchos map.gif by Yomangani) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The ancient city of Oxyrhynchus lays on the west bank of the Bahr Yusuf (Canal of Joseph), a branch of the Nile that flows north along the western edge of the middle Nile valley. In ancient Egyptian times the town was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian nome 𓉋 (province) and it first appeared in hieroglyphic sources during the 25th Dynasty, or Nubian period, under its Pharaonic name Per-Medjed. After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the city attracted a large number of Greek colonists who gave it the name Oxyrhynchus.

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