Simon Christian Raith

The Fayum in Late Antiquity: Society and Economy in the 3rd and 4th centuries

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Sabine R. Huebner (University of Basel), Prof. Dr. Jens-Uwe Krause (LMU)

The period at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century, in particular the era of Diocletian and Constantine, has been marked by numerous reforms and changes in military, economic and political terms, and thus rightly been characterised as a time of transition. It therefore comes as no surprise that this time has always been the center of much historical interest. Most of these studies have tended to focus on the apex of late antique society, the local and governmental elite of the Roman Empire. This period, however, also provides the opportunity - underestimated by many - to illuminate the lower reaches of society. It is, in particular, the Egyptian documentation, the thousands of papyri and ostraca, that allow us to look with a depth, unmatched in any other part of the ancient world, at social levels well below these elites. In my dissertation project, I am going to focus on the Fayum in middle Egypt, a richly documented region of the Empire, that has a lot to offer for our understanding of the basic realities of life, and the extent of its continuity and change. My research will provide a unique insight into the everyday history of a regional society, the population of the metropolis of Arsinoe and the communities of its surrounding villages. The papyrological data, complemented by archaeological, numismatic and other textual evidence, will have much to tell us.