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date: 02 December 2020

Heracleopolis, Jewish politeumalocked

  • Patrick Sänger


There existed, under the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, an institution, or association, called a politeuma (“polity”). Usually the word politeuma is related to Greek city states or poleis. In this context politeuma can mean “government,” “citizenry,” “polity,” or “state,” or, as a technical term, it can refer to the body of citizens who had political rights.1 The Ptolemies seem to have adopted the word politeuma and transferred it to a specific form of association which was apparently destined for organized groups of persons living within an urban area and named after an ethnic designation. Indeed, this particular word usage occurs only on the (former) territory of the Ptolemaic kingdom: in Hellenistic Egypt, politeumata of Cilicians, Cretans (both in the Arsinoite nome?), Boeotians (in Xois), and Idumaeans (in Memphis) are attested. We come across all these politeumata in the 2nd or 1st century bce. In Sidon, politeumata have been discovered of immigrants from the cities of Kaunos (in Caria), Termessos Minor near Oinoanda, and Pinara (both in Lycia) dating to the end of the 3rd century bce (when Sidon was still controlled by the Ptolemies).

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