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Communication and the circulation of letters in the Eastern Desert of Egypt during the Roman Period

Hamouda, Fatma E.

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Abstract

Over the past thirty years, excavations in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, which was home to important mining sites and the hub for long-distance trade between Rome and the Near and Far East, have turned up thousands of potsherds inscribed with Greek and much fewer with Latin. Most of these texts are private and official letters and they tend to date to the first three centuries of the current era. Studying this large corpus of material, which has not been studied in a synthetic manner before, reveals multiple aspects of life in Roman Egypt: for example, we see how letters were exchanged, who handled and delivered them, whence and to where they were delivered, what obstacles could prevent their delivery, and who communicated with whom, namely, the networks that were formed through epistolary communication. The Eastern Desert brought people of different cultures together, who came to this hardly habitable area generally for reasons of work and commercial interest. It was important to the Romans because of its mines of precious metals and stones, and for its access to the Red Sea trade route, which connected the Mediterranean to South Arabia, Southern Africa, and India. People stationed in the Eastern Desert needed to communicate, and communication required infrastructure. The present work has thus been conducted with particular focus on the circumstances that surrounded the process of the circulation of letters and goods in the Eastern Desert. Overall, this study attempts to reveal how epistolary communication was the underpinning of Roman commercial and military operations in a critical part of the Roman empire.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Jördens, Prof. Dr. Andrea
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 20 May 2019
Date Deposited: 04 May 2020 05:15
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: Philosophische Fakultät > Institut für Papyrologie und antike Paläographie
Subjects: 090 Manuscripts and rare books
480 Hellenic languages Classical Greek
930 History of ancient world
Controlled Keywords: Papyrologie, Egypt, östliche Wüste, Ostrakon, Network, Graeco-Roman, Alte Geschichte, Papyrus, Kommunikation, Brief, Verkehr, Arabische Wüste, Historischer Roman, Post
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