Monday, October 4, 2010

Identifcation in the Libelli

In the ancient world I would imagine identifying people in formal documentation to be a very difficult task. There was no photo identification, specific addresses and after the Edict of Caracalla many couldn't resist taking the nomen Aurelius. An example of identifying individuals in the ancient world can be found in the various surviving papyri libelli. The libelli (sing. libellus) were petitions issued in the time of Decius (250), certifying an individual's loyalty to pagan religion. At its core, it involved an attested certification that the individual had offered sacrifice to the gods.

P. Wisc. 2.87 (SB 3.6826)

To those appointed in Narmouthis to oversee the sacrifices. From Aurelius Aunes son of Silvanus of the village of Narmouthis. I have always been constant in sacrificing to the gods, and now too, in your presence, I have offered sacrifice in accordance with the orders, and I have poured a libtation, and I have eaten of the sacrificial offerings. I ask you to certify this below. May you proper. I, Aunes, aged about 19 with a scar on my right elbow.
I, Aurelius Sarapodorus, have certified.
I, Aurelius Patos, have certified.
I, Aurelius ...mon, have certified.
I, Aurelius [Sera?]pion, have certified.
I, Aurelius...onius, have certified.
I, Aurelius Itonin, have certified.
The year one of the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius Pius Felix Augustus. Pauni 10.

This libellus makes the point. We have the common familial references, the village, we have a heap of Aureliuses and we have Decius' super long name. What I like is the reference to the "scar on my right elbow" as identification. In P.Lips. 2.152 the sacrifice is certified by "Aurelios Serenus, about 60 years old with a scar on his left leg"; Aurelius Diogenes "aged 72 years, with a scar on his right eyebrow" was certified in W. Chr. 124. I wonder how we today would like to be identified by our scars?

An interesting identification is that of "Aurelia Demos, fatherless, daughter of Helen and wife of Aurelius Irenaeus."(P.Ryld. 1.12.) Hath the virgin conceived?

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