Most ancient history focuses on the urban elite. Papyrology
explores the daily lives of the more typical men and women in
antiquity. Aphrodito, a village in sixth-century AD Egypt, is
antiquity's best source for micro-level social history. The archive
of Dioskoros of Aphrodito introduces thousands of people living the
normal business of their lives: loans, rent contracts, work
agreements, marriage, divorce. In exceptional cases, the papyri
show raw conflict: theft, plunder, murder. Throughout, Dioskoros
struggles to keep his family in power in Aphrodito, and to keep
Aphrodito independent from the local tax collectors. The emerging
picture is a different vision of Roman late antiquity than what we
see from the view of the urban elites. It is a world of free
peasants building networks of trust largely beyond the reach of the
state. Aphrodito's eighth-century AD papyri show that this world
dies in the early years of Islamic rule.
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