Berenikis Thesmophorou (meris of Polemon)
The village Berenikis Thesmophorou occurs 106 times in 75 texts, ranging from the mid third century BC to the Byzantine period. The second century BC (19 texts) and the second century AD (17 texts) are best represented. Especially important are P.Tebt. III 793 and 826, because they were apparently written in the office of the local village scribe Horos. There are no documents from the fourth to sixth century. Though the Byzantine texts omit the specification "Thesmophorou", the topographical context suggests that Berenikis Thesmophorou is meant.
Berenikis Thesmophorou (Βερενικὶς Θεσμοφόρου) is named after a queen Berenike, no doubt Berenike I, the wife of Ptolemy Soter, as the village is already attested around 250 BC. A homonymous village in the meris of Themistos was called Berenikis Aigialou. The suffix "Thesmophorou" is a common epithet of the goddess Demeter, with whom Berenike was identified.
In two early texts, P.Petrie III 41 and no doubt also in P.Enteux. 74 the name reads Βερενικὶς ἡ πρὸς τῷ Θεσμοφόρῳ, whereas P.Enteux. 86 has Βερενικὶς ἡ Θεσμοφόρου. In most Roman texts, the name is written Βερενικίς. The distinguishing element "Thesmophorou" is, however, frequently omitted, in the pre-Christian as well as the post-Christian period. Only one text refers to the village as Θεσμοφόρου (SB 18 13257).
The village had the status of a 'kome'; Stud.Pal. X 40 calls Berenikis a 'chorion'. Since the date of this text is uncertain, chorion could be used either for a farmstead or for a village. The presence of a gate (πύλη) in the late third century BC points to a kind of city wall (P.Enteux. 74).
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Berenikis Thesmophorou was situated in the meris of Polemon. The land survey reports from the Menches archive specify that Berenikis was to the west or southwest of Kerkeosiris, on the other side of the Polemonos dioryx (P.Tebt. I 84; P.Tebt. IV 1116). P.Tebt. III 826 shows that the territory of Berenikis included 'shore-land' (αἰγιαλός) and land next to the ὄρος and the desert-edge canal (ὀρεινὴ διώρυξ). The territories ofthe two villages bordered, leading now and then to conflicts, when farmers damaged dykes of the neighbouring village (e.g. P.Tebt. I 13; P.Tebt. I 61; P.Tebt. I 72). When the epimeletes travels from Berenikis to Theogonis, he passes through Kerkeosiris (P.Tebt. I 17 and 18).
In 113 BC the eremophylakes of Kerkeosiris paid their taxes (34 artabas of wheat) at Berenikis Thesmophorou. (P.Tebt. I 17).
To the northwest Berenikis Thesmophorou bordered Ibion Argaiou (see P.Tebt. III 831). In the period 183-157 BC the two villages shared their komogrammateis (P.Count. 51 and P.Tebt. III 958 ), and probably also their epistates (P.Tebt. III 793). Conflicts between inhabitants of Berenikis and Ibion Argaiou are mentioned in P.Teb. III 793 col.ii-iv and catoecic lands in the two villages are leased out in a single contract (P.Teb. II 375; AD 140)
Rathbone identifies Berenikis Thesmophorou with the extensive site of Kom el-Khamsini [Rathbone 1993, p.54], but definite proof for this is lacking.
In a conflict about a house between the Egyptian lady Tetosiris and the Greek Apollodoros, the latter is accused of intimidating her prospective witnesses, most of them Egyptians but also the Greek cavalryman Biou.as (P.Enteux. 86). A generation later the hundred-arouras cavalryman Ptolemaios attacks the Egyptian farmer Pnepheros; one of the latter's cows falls in a ditch and is killed by a crocodile (P.Tebt. III 793). Greek soldiers were settled in the village both in the third and in the second century [cf. Uebel 1968, nos.551-563]. Some families, such as that of the Perinthian Elpines and the Thracian Didymos and his three sons Argaios, Diodotos and Hesiodos, can be followed over several generations. A group of soldiers from Asia was no doubt settled in or near the village (P.Tebt. III 793).
A fragmentary report of 172 BC lists unproductive land (ὑπόλογος), e.g. land sanded up because of its adjacence to the desert, land used for new canals, waterlogged land (due to canals) and saline land, amounting to at least 100 arouras (P.Tebt. III 826).
In 221 BC, four persons bought a vineyard (P.Enteux. 65), which had been public land before, and in BC 162, a parcel of royal land is mentioned (P.Tebt. III 958).
A fragmentary list of salt-tax payers of the early second century BC apparently groups all holders of 100-arouras (P.Count. 51). Other cavalrymen owning 100, 80 and 70 arouras are listed in Uebel (1968), nos.551-558. Uebel does not include Philonautes, a catoecic cavalry soldier living in Berenikis around 114 BC. Infantrymen, one holder of 20 arouras and two 7-arouras-holders are accused of steeling 40 sheep in Kerkeosiris in 110 BC (P.Tebt. I 53).
In the Roman period catoecic land has become private property, most of it being in the hands of the propertied hellenised classes, e.g. P.Tebt. II 375 (AD 140; 6.5 ar.).
Details about the crops sown in Berenikis are rare; 7 arouras of grain land are mentioned in AD 207 (P.Strasb.Gr. IV 192) The only vineyard known in the village belongs to an Egyptian and is invaded by the sheep of some Greek settlers (P.Enteux. 65); the petition concerning this conflict does not mention the name of the village, but Pythiades is attested as epistates of Berenikis for that same year.
Fishing was an important economic activity in Berenikis. An unpublished Petrie papyrus (P.Petrie Trin. Select Box 56) is a petition by a fisherman working in the drymos near the village. In the early first century AD Herakleides is a scribe of the fishermen (γραμματεὺς ἁλιέων) of the shoreland (αἰγιαλός) of Berenikis Thesmophorou (PSI VIII 901). This papyrus contains an oath sworn by the elders of the fishermen from Berenikis and Narmouthis not to catch certain species of sacred fish. Fishermen of Berenikis and Dionysias joined in a complaint about fishing taxes (PSI VII 737). In AD 138 they hired a boat from the priests of Soknopaios for 500 drachmas, which shows that they practised their trade as far away as lake Moeris (P.L.Bat. 17 1).
Further information about the village economy is scarce. An oil-merchant Hephaistion (P.Petrie III 66a) and a goose-herd Psenobastis (P.Tebt. I 229) are attested for the third and early first century BC respectively.
Thus far there is no trace of a thesmophorion or Demeter shrine in the village [cf., however, Thompson 1998, 703]. Poregebthis, a pastophoros and isionomos living in second century BC Berenikis, was assaulted and robbed of a can of honey, a linen cloth, a bag with money, a bronze altar and drinking vessel while on duty in a local Isieion (P.Tebt. III 797). A brawl between the desert guard Dorion and the Thracian cavalryman Hesiodos takes place near the house of the latter in front of the "Boubastis shrine of Patsontis" (P.Tebt. III 793). The village also donated six artabas of wheat to the temple of Tebtynis (P.Tebt. II 298).
As shown in the table below, several village administrators are known for the period between 221 BC and 157 BC. In 221 BC Pythiades was epistates at Berenikis Thesmophorou; a few years later he is found in the same function in Autodike. In 218 BC he is succeeded by Mikion. The epistates of 183-176 BC bears the same name Mikion, and is probably a relative (son or grandson?). At that period a certain Horos was komogrammateus. A second komogrammateus Orseus no doubt held the office in BC 157/156 (P.Count. 51).
|221 BC||Pythiades (PPt 706)|
|219/218 BC||Mikion (PPt 688)|
|183 BC||Horos (PPt 858)||Mikion (also Ibion Argaiou) (PPt 689)|
|175 BC||Horos (PPt 858)||Mikion (PPt 689)|
|172 BC||Horos (PPt 858)|
|162 BC||NN (PPt 845) (also Ibion Argaiou)|
|157/156 BC||Orseus (PPt 845) (also Ibion Argaiou)|
About the sametime a petition to the archiphylakites [--]esis mentions of a head of police Meleagros. The presence of a topogrammateus (P.Tebt. III 903) suggests that Berenikis was the capital of a toparchy, but this is rather unlikely.
A second-century text, BGU XIII 2272, mentions sitologoi of the village as well as a granary, which perhaps even functioned as a central storehouse for several villages [Duttenhöfer 1993].
B. Van Beek, Mar 7 2003