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Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt [Hardcover]

Benjamin Kelly

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Book Description

Oct. 28 2011 0199599610 978-0199599615
This book examines the contribution that petitioning and litigation made to the maintenance of the social order in Roman Egypt between 30 BC and AD 284. Through the analysis of the many hundreds of documents surviving on papyrus, especially petitions, reports of court proceedings, and letters, Kelly focuses on how the legal system achieved its formal goals (that is, the resolution of disputes through judgments), and discusses in detail the contribution made by the litigation process to informal methods of social control. With particular emphasis on the roles that this process played in the transmission of political ideologies, in the maintenance of family solidarity, and in the fostering of 'private' mechanisms of dispute resolution, the book argues that although the legal system was less than successful when judged by its formal aims, it did have a real social impact by indirectly contributing to some of the informal mechanisms that ensured order in this province of the Roman Empire. However, arguing that, on occasion, one can also see petitioning and litigation being abused for the pursuit of feud and vengeance, Kelly also recognizes that the social impacts of petitioning and litigation were multifaceted, and in some senses even contradictory.

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"Kelly's monograph on the social history of litigation and dispute resolution in early imperial Egypt brings the debate back to its origins in juristic papyrology and is a major contribution to the subject. His main achievement, hard to overestimate, has been to produce, for the first time, a study based not on a small and relatively random sample of legal petitions and court minutes, but on the whole body of the published material...This is a wide-ranging, thought-provoking and clearly written monograph, with implications far beyond its immediate field. No student of related subjects can afford to neglect it."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review


About the Author

Benjamin Kelly is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at York University, Toronto. He was previously a lecturer in the History Program of the Australian National University.

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