Christopher B. Zeichmann

A Wordpess Site

P.Yadin 11 on Magonius Valens

Welcome to the inaugural post of my new blog.  I wanted to start it off with a look at a fascinating papyrus originating from the Judaean village of Ein Gedi from 6 May 124 CE.  It was published as P.Yadin 11, but the official SBL Handbook abbreviation is 5/6Ḥev 11.  The monumental work of the late Yigael Yadin has led scholars to prefer citation of the documents in his name instead of the SBL-authorized manner.

After the Judaean War, a number of factors contributed to an increased debt-load for villagers in Palestine.  These factors ranged from a sharp increase in the monetization of the economy (See chapter 11 of Danny Syon’s forthcoming book Small Change in Hellenistic-Roman Galilee) to the transfer of land to imperial loyalists and veterans. The upsurge of debt resulted in a need for loans, which were sometimes procured from the soldiers in an unofficial capacity. The best attestation to this phenomenon in Palestine is a document attesting a forty denarii loan from the centurion Magonius Valens to an Ein-Gedi resident named Judah. The surviving document is a Greek copy of an Aramaic original treating a courtyard as collateral for a loan. Magonius was part of a temporary garrison (cohors I Thracum miliaria) that camped on both the eastern and western border of the courtyard in question, as well as a praesidium to the north; a bathhouse in the area was discovered and may have served the unit in question.[1] The document was given to Judah, while the Aramaic original stayed with Magonius, leading to a strange situation where neither the creditor nor the debtor held a copy in a language they found intelligible;[2] the witnesses include a combination of Jewish and Roman names – the latter monikers presumably belonging to other auxiliary soldiers. In this particular case, it seems the centurion convinced Judah to sign an agreement to repay a 60 denarii loan, when in fact Judah had only received 40: in the initial copy of the text, the word forty is scratched out and replaced by sixty, but only in the second copy did the scribe correctly list the amount Magonius demanded.[3] Comparison with P.Yadin 19 reveals that Judah managed to repay the loan, since he still owned the courtyard in 128 CE.[4] This overt extortion was exceptional, even if loaning practices were predatory by their very nature: the loan attested in Mur114 and most other documents for soldiers’ loans to civilians during the Principate appear voluntary, to the extent that anyone would consent to such terms.[5]


The Greek text does not transfer well to my blog at this point, but you can read the full version of P.Yadin 11 here.

Translation (as published in the editio princeps, with light modifications): In the consulship of Manius Acilius Glabrio and Torquatus Tebanianus one day before the nones of May, in Ein Gedi village of lord Caesar, Judah son of Elazar Khthousion, Ein Gedian, to Magonius Valens, centurion of cohors I milliaria Thracum, greeting. I acknowledge that I have received and owe to you in loan forty sixty denarii of Tyrian silver, which are fifteen staters, upon hypothec of the olive (…?) courtyard in Ein Gedi belonging to my father Eleazar Khthousion, whereof I have from the said Elazar trusteeship to hypothecate and to lease out, the abutters of the said courtyard being, on the east the camp and Jesus son of Mandron, west of the camp and the factory of the said Eleazar my father, south a market and Simon son of Matthew, north a street and the camp headquarters; which money I will repay to you on the calends of January in the coming the same year during the said consulship, and the interest of the said money I will deliver to you monthly at the rate of one denarius per hundred denarii per month. If I do not repay you on the specified terminal date as aforewritten, you will have the right to acquire, use, sell and administer the said hypothec without any opposition, and the right of execution both upon me and upon all the posessions everywhere of my father Eleazar, both those which you have acquired and those which we may additionally acquire, will be available to both you and to your representative and to every other person legally presenting this document through you or for you, proceeding validly in whatever manner the one instituting the proceedings chooses, the lease which I hereby leased to you remaining valid. Translation: I, Judah, son of Eleazar Khthousion […] have hypothecated according to the aforewritten terms […]. It was written by Justinus. || [hand 2] Gaius Julius Procles. [hand 3] Kallaios son of John, witness. [hand 4] Onesimus, son of Ian[…], witness. [hand 5] John son of […]os, witness. [hand 6] Joseph son of Sai[…]os, witness. [hand 7] Simon son of Simon, witness [hand 8] Theodore son of […]os, witness.


[1] Hannah M. Cotton, “Courtyard(s) in Ein-gedi: P.Yadin 11, 19 and 20 of the Babatha Archive,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 112 (1996): 197-201. Cotton also observes that comparison with P.Yadin 19 indicates cohors I milliaria Thracum left Ein-Gedi by April 128, but military diplomas show the unit remained in Palestine (RMD 3.160; CIL 16.87). Gwyn Davies and Jodi Magness recently disputed that the cohort was ever in Ein-Gedi, though: Gwyn Davies and Jodi Magness, “Was a Roman Cohort Stationed at Ein Gedi?” Scripta Classica Israelica 32 (2013): 195-199.

[2] Jacobine G. Oudshoorn, Roman and Local Law in the Babatha and Salome Komaise Archives: General Analysis and Three Case Studies on Law of Succession, Guardianship and Marriage (Studies on the Desert of Judah 69; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 156.

[3] Naphtali Lewis, The Documents from the Bar-Kochba Period in the Cave of Letters: Greek Papyri [P.Yadin] (Judean Desert Studies 2; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1989), 41; Oudshoorn, Roman and Local Law, 160.

[4] See Cotton, “Courtyard(s) in Ein-gedi” for a discussion of how the courtyards mentioned in P.Yadin 11, 19, and 20 relate to each other.

[5] Cf. Mur113. See the extensive discussion of the papyrological data in Lothar Wierschowski, Heer und Wirtschaft: Das römische Heer der Prinzipatszeit als Wirtschaftsfaktor (Habelts Dissertationsdrucke: Reihe Alte Geschichte 20; Bonn: Habelt, 1984), 17-30. Two additional documents are worth singling out as relevant: 1) P.Hamb. 1.2 = CPJ 2.417 involves a 600 drachmae transaction between three Egyptian Jews and a soldier of ala Vocontiorum. 2) One soldier in Aelia Capitolina (i.e., Jerusalem) loaned a sum to another in 188 CE, as documented in P.Mich. 7.445.