Census Edict for Roman Egypt

Language: Greek
Medium: papyrus
Size: 21.3cm high
15.2cm wide
Length: 21 lines of writing
Genre: Official Census Edict
Date: 104 CE
Place of Discovery: Egypt
Date of Discovery: c. 1905
Current Location: British Museum, London
Inventory Number: P.London 904

(from Hunt & Edgar 14:108)
(This is readable as Greek
if "Symbol" font is installed)
by K. C. Hanson

(Adapted from Hunt & Edgar)

GaioV OuibioV MaximoV eparcoV Aiguptou legei thV kat oikian apografhV enestwshV anagkaion estin pasin toiV kaq hntina dhpote aitian apodhmousin apo twn nomwn prosaggellesqai epanelqein eiV ta eautwn efestia ina kai thn sunhqh oikonomian thV apografhV plhrwswsin kai th proshkoush autoiV gewrgiai proskarterhswsin eidwV mentoi oti eniwn twn apo thV cwraV h poliV hmwn ecei creian boulomai pantaV touV eulogon dokountaV ecein tou enqade epimenin aitian apografesqai para Boul . . . Fhstw eparcwi eilhV on epi toutw etaxa ou kai taV upografaV oi apodeixanteV anagkaian autwn thn parousian lhmyontai kata touto to paraggelma entoV thV triakadoV tou enestwtoV mhnoV E . . .
A few words have been reconstructed by the editors.
The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their nomes be summoned to return to their own hearths so that they may perform the customary business of registration and apply themselves to the cultivation which concerns them. Knowing, however, that some of the people from the countryside are required by our city, I desire all those who think they have a satisfactory reason for remaining here to register themselves before . . . Festus, the Cavalry Commander , whom I have appointed for this purpose, from whom those who have shown their presence to be necessary shall receive signed permits in accordance with this edict up to the 30th of the present month E . . .
The "Prefect of Egypt" (Latin: Prefectus) was the Roman governor over all Egypt.

A "nome" was an Egyptian administrative district.

A "Cavalry Commander" (Latin: Prefectus Alae) was a commander of a Roman auxiliary cavalry unit.


    1. What was the role and status of the "Prefectus of Egypt" within the Roman Empire? How does this compare to the "Prefectus Alae"? Where does each of these fit on the Roman cursus honorem?

    2. What does this edict indicate about the relationship between the city and the countryside and the state's right to control who stays in the city?
    3. What functions did a census serve in the ancient world? How do these functions relate to the primary tasks/concerns of aristocratic empires? (Read 2 Samuel 24:1-25; Luke 2:1-7; Acts 5:37)
    4. What role does the Roman census play in the narrative about Jesus' birth in Luke's gospel? What historical problems have been raised about the dating of that census?


    Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. 2nd ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 19.

    Brunt, P. A. "The Revenues of Rome." Journal of Roman Studies 71 (1981) 161-72.
    Deissmann, Adolf. "Appendix V: The Synagogue Inscription of Theodotus at Jerusalem." In Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World, 270-71 + Fig. 51. Translated by L. R. M. Strachan. New York: Harper & Row, 1927. (Reprinted by Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.)
    Hunt, A. S. and C. C. Edgar. Select Papyri. Vol. 2: Non-Literary Papyri; Public Documents. Loeb Classical Library 282. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 14.
    Rohrbaugh, Richard L. "The Pre-Industrial City in Luke-Acts: Urban Social Relations." In The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation. Edited by J. H. Neyrey, 125-49. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1991.
    Schmitz, Philip C. "Census: Roman Census." In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 1.883-85. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
    Sch=FCrer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. Vol. 1.399-427. Edited by G. Vermes et al. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973.

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Last Modified: 15 May 2002