3rd International Conference of the Research Network Imperium & Officium: Land and Power in the Ancient and Post-Ancient World, University of Vienna, 20–22 February 2013

In addressing the theme of ‘Land and Power’ we wish to examine the power base of office-holding élites in pre-modern societies. As a tool of analysis we frame our questions in Weberian terms, distinguishing between exercise of power in a bureaucratic mode (ex officio) and power based on economic wealth and privilege in a patrimonial setting, with office being conferred as a consequence. Our focus will be on the interplay between economic power and bureaucratic rationality. In most pre-industrial societies, power and wealth was based on landownership and the control of food production: landownership as the basis of power of an office-holding élite is a recurring phenomenon in ancient states. We also seek to question whether such élites (especially in the periphery) were a force for cohesion or disruption from the point of view of the state, and to investigate the means by which the state sought to integrate and control office-holding élites, e.g. by the use of parallel and/or overlapping chains of command, or by co-optation through court offices and privileges.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

9–9.30 a.m. Welcome address by Jursa, Michael and Palme, Bernhard (Vienna)

Section 1: Elite Formation

Chair: Jursa, Michael

9.30–10 a.m. Garfinkle, Steven J. (Washington): Landownership and Office-Holding: Pathways to Privilege and Authority under the Third Dynasty of Ur

10–10.30 a.m. Kaiser, Anna (Vienna): Flavius Athanasius, dux et Augustalis Thebaidis

10.30–11 a.m. coffee break

11–11.30 a.m. Scheuble-Reiter, Sandra (Chemnitz): Military Service and the Allotment of Land in Ptolemaic Egypt

11.30–12 a.m. Paulus, Susanne (Münster): The System of Landownership in the Middle Babylonian Time (1500–1000 BC)

12 a.m.–2 p.m. lunch break

Section 2: Feudalisms

Chair: Baker, Heather

2–2.30 p.m. Sarris, Peter (Cambridge): Land and Power in Byzantium c. 700–1000

2.30–3 p.m. Moreno García, Juan Carlos (Paris): Land, Elites and Officialdom in Pharaonic Egypt: Land Tenure Strategies in Elite Building and State Reproduction

3–3.30 p.m. Mazza, Roberta (Manchester): Land and Power in Late Antiquity: The Egyptian Point of View

3.30–4 p.m. coffee break

4–4.30 p.m. Reculeau, Hervé (Paris): Patrimonial and Official Land-Tenure in 2nd Millennium Upper Mesopotamia

4.30–5 p.m. Tost, Sven (Vienna): The riparii domorum gloriosarum: Police Power and Large-Scale Landholding in Late Antique Egypt

5–5.30 p.m. Selz, Gebhard (Vienna): Land, Property and Rights of Disposal: A Glimpse at Mesopotamian Sources of the 3rd Millennium

Keynote address:

6.30–8 p.m. Morony, Michael (Los Angeles): Issues and Opportunities in the Study of Land and Power

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Section 3: Centre and Periphery I

Chair: Tost, Sven

9.30–10 a.m. Waerzeggers, Caroline (Leiden): The Persian State in Babylonia: Integration and Control of Office-Holding Élites

10–10.30 a.m. Malczycki, W. Matt (Auburn): Caliphal Policy and the Baladiyyūn of Ifriqiya 757–800 CE

10.30–11 a.m. coffee break

11–11.30 a.m. Pirngruber, Reinhard (Vienna): Land and Power in Late Achaemenid Babylonia

11.30–12 a.m. Palme, Bernhard (Vienna): From City Council to Senate: Landlords from Late Antique Egypt Becoming Imperial Aristocrats

12 a.m.–2 p.m. lunch break

Section 4: Control and Taxation of the Country and its People

Chair: Procházka, Stephan

2–2.30 p.m. Varisco, Daniel Martin (Hempstead): Why the Sultan is Rich: A Case Study of Bureaucracy in Rasulid Yemen (13th–14th centuries)

2.30–3 p.m. Kehoe, Dennis (New Orleans): Urbanization, Land, and Political Control in the Roman Empire

3–3.30 p.m. Frantz-Murphy, Gladys (Denver): Environment and History in the Early Islamic Middle East

3.30–4 p.m. coffee break

4–4.30 p.m. Manning, Joseph (New Haven): Patrimonial Power, State Power, and Land in Greco-Roman Egypt

4.30–5 p.m. Heidemann, Stefan (Hamburg): The Seljuq Form of Government in Northern Syria and Northern Mesopotamia

Friday, 22 February 2013

Section 5: Centre and Periphery II

Chair: Palme, Bernhard

9.30–10 a.m. Mathisen, Ralph (Urbana): The Settlement of Barbarians in the Late Roman World: Barbarians Who Got Something

10–10.30 a.m. Baker, Heather (Vienna): Land and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire

10.30–11 a.m. coffee break

11–11.30 a.m. Bsees, Ursula (Vienna): The Partition of Land and Power at the Periphery: Some Notes on the Agreements between St Catherine’s Monastery and Surrounding Bedouin


11.30 a.m.–13.00 p.m. Résumé by Keenan, James (Chicago) and general discussion



1. Baker, Heather (Vienna) (heather.baker@univie.ac.at),

Land and Power in Assyria


This paper examines the relationship between land holding and tenure of office over the course of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, from the earlier 9th century BC down to the fall of Assyria in 612 BC. The king could be considered to have ultimate control over all land within the empire (Postgate 1974: 202), and although widely varying conditions of ownership and/or tenure might apply on the ground, the effects of centrally-directed policies were significant. Recent archaeological survey work and excavation has revealed physical traces of this "imprint of empire" in the Assyrian heartland, confirming the impact of wide-ranging state intervention in the countryside and reflecting measures aimed at maintaining the power structure while at the same time supplying the growing urban populations. This is clear from the settlement patterns as well as from the evidence for canal systems etc. Among the historical sources, well known elements of this intervention are represented by, for example, the royal grants of land and/or tax exemption, as well as frequent references to the resettlement of deportees in rural areas. We have also to consider the operation of other, less visible mechanisms which may not have found explicit formulation in the written record but which nevertheless served the interests of the state and its power structure. A central issue is the way in which high officials and their subordinates were remunerated. Land, whether privately-owned or held ex offico, was essential for their support and formed the principal basis for their wealth. But in investigating the office-holding élites from this "land and power" perspective, we are hampered by the general lack of evidence for their background and family circumstances, so that it can be difficult to determine whether and to what extent substantial landholdings were a prerequisite for high office, or rather a consequence of it. Another key issue is the relationship between centre and periphery, that is, between the ruler and the high officials who were charged with the administration of the provinces. These questions will be examined on a diachronic basis.


2. Bsees, Ursula (Vienna) (ursula.bsees@univie.ac.at)

The Partition of “Land and Power” at the Periphery: Some Notes on the Agreements between St Catherine’s Monastery and Surrounding Bedouin


In my paper, I will treat written agreements made between the monks of St Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai and surrounding Arab tribes. The documents are taken from D. S. Richards and A. S. ʿAṭīya and date from the 15th and 16th century CE, of which my closer analysis will encompass the earlier documents. Three aspects will be discussed on the basis of the documents and Richards’s commentary: First, there is the topic of land and power itself and the specific questions linked to it, like in what relation we must place land possession and responsibility for the safety of those crossing said land or which duties and rights were incumbent on which party of the agreements. The second area that deserves our interest is the question of administration at the periphery. Neither the monks nor the Bedouin were backed by government officials when drawing up their agreements on livelihood, travel and safety on the Sinai Peninsula. Furthermore, the documents had to cross the conceptual gap between the monastery’s hierarchy and legislation and Bedouin law, which was (and is) in many aspects not based on Islamic law, but has its own origins and regulations. Another interesting point is how and where the agreements were preserved. They were found in the monastery, but since they are mutual agreements binding two parties to their content one must ask if the Bedouin were granted access to them in order to read the content up or if there were copies or a least one copy for the shaykh al-ʿarab. If not we must assume that the documents’ text was made known to every single member of the Bedouin tribes in a way which at the same time made everybody adhere to its content. Considering these facts, one must speak of a kind of “unofficial administration,” the authority of which was in the agreements and their execution. The agreements administered what the government did not take care of: daily life in an outlying region. Thirdly, the documents (one on parchment, the others on paper) will be studied from a papyrological viewpoint. Here the main topics to deal with are the document type and its textual structure, the formulae employed and linguistic questions, e.g. the extreme tendency towards dialectal expressions.


3. Frantz-Murphy, Gladys (Denver) (gfrantzm@regis.edu),

Environment and History in the Early Islamic Middle East


Based on correlation of documentary sources, historical narratives, and scientifically documented climate fluctuations, the thesis of this presentation is that the geography and resource base of the Middle East is key to understanding the relationship between bureaucratic and patrimonial powers’ access to land and so power in the early Islamic period. This is because the basis of power in the Middle East might well be thought of not as land, but as land that has regular and predictable access to water. Other than the two river valley systems in the Middle East, this combination of resources has been neither regular nor predictable. Even in the river valleys, irrigation agriculture repeatedly proved an unreliable source of land based power. Irrigation agriculture alone guaranteed sufficient surplus to support the weight of centralized states or empires.  In times of optimal climatic conditions, surrounding pastoralism was complementary to irrigation agriculture.  But in times of regional climate change, pastoralists invaded river valleys with impunity. While patrimonial power – the invading pastoral military – repeatedly displaced bureaucratic power, the military came to depend on the bureaucracy for the realization of revenue (crops) and service (maintenance) necessary to preserve the military’s privileged position. However, bureaucratic power, in the form of knowledge based on record keeping of taxes assessed (crops and labor) and taxes collected, in turn reasserted itself and proved to be a force for the recreation of a cohesive state or empire, as well as the reestablishment of its own power. I will illustrate the correlation using historical examples from the initial Arab conquests in the 630s through the Abbasid Revolution in 750 and subsequent pastoral invasions and bureaucratic restorations of agrarian empire to the 16th century.


4. Garfinkle, Steven J. (Washington) (steven.garfinkle@wwu.edu),

Landownership and Office-holding: Pathways to Privilege and Authority under the Third Dynasty of Ur


The era of the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 BC) was characterized by an early effort at the formation of a territorial state in southern Mesopotamia. The kings of Ur took control of a region previously dominated by numerous autonomous city-states. Their efforts at creating a larger notion of community were focused on creating an office-holding elite whose wealth and authority supported the new state. The crown used the allocation of land and estates as a means of binding elites to the projects of the kingdom. This included the establishment of new estates within the old established provinces in order to create institutions of state power in regional areas that had older and separate hierarchies. These activities were paralleled by the growth of the military as a pathway to elite power and landholding. This study uses the military elite as a case study of the relationship between land and power in early Mesopotamia. The administrative records of military estates will be examined along with the administrative records for military activity. The control of lands, herds, and other resources were concentrated in the hands of elite households. The reliance of the royal household on the cooption of these elites and the absence of a rational bureaucracy contributed to the instability of the state institutions of the Third Dynasty of Ur and the collapse of the kingdom.


5. Heidemann, Stefan (Hamburg) (stefan.heidemann@uni-hamburg.de),

The Seljuq Form of Government in Northern Syria and Northern Mesopotamia


The Seljuq's conquest of Northern Syria and the Jazira was a systematic approach to appropriate as foreign rulers a territory and a people. They first conquered the metropolises, distributed the land as revenue among their amirs, and co-opted the indigenous Arab rulers of the medium-sized cities before they ousted them later to acquire more land for tax revenues. Within the cities they started building activities to demonstrate the powerful new era, and looked for new ways to extort money from the citizens.


6. Kaiser, Anna (Vienna) (anna.kaiser@univie.ac.at),

Flavius Athanasius, dux et Augustalis Thebaidis


In his Edict XIII, dating to the year 539 CE, the emperor Justinian reunited the civil and military powers in Egypt in the hands of the duces et Augustales. One of them was Flavius Triadius Marianus Michaelius Gabrielius Constantinus Theodorus Martyrius Iulianus Athanasius, dux et Augustalis Thebaidis in the 560s, whom we will use as a case study. It is especially the voluminous Dioskoros-Archive that sheds some light on this dux et Augustalis Thebaidis and places him firmly into the networks of his time. Due to the title of the NFN’s 3rd International Conference this paper seeks to examine the fundaments his power was based on. Did land play any role in his powerful standing in the province? Did the military, placed under his command? And how far did his power actually go?


7. Keenan, James G. (jgkeenan2@gmail.com)

Land and Power in the Ancient and Post-Ancient World [Résumé]


8. Kehoe, Dennis (New Orleans) (kehoe@tulane.edu),

Urbanization, Land, and Political Control in the Roman Empire


In this paper, I address the competition over control of land and the resources of the rural labor force between the Roman imperial government and the municipal aristocracies around the empire. I propose to build on work that I have done on the state and the rural economy (“The State and Production in the Roman Agrarian Economy,” forthcoming in A. Bowman, A. Wilson, eds., The Roman Agricultural Economy: Organization, Investment, and Production [Oxford]) to consider the economic implications of the Roman imperial government’s policies concerning landownership for urbanization in the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, the urbanization that was a principle hallmark of Roman rule also represents a proxy for economic growth, as Andrew Wilson (“Indicators for Roman economic growth: a response to Walter Scheidel, Journal of Roman Archaeology 22 [2009]: 71-82), among other scholars, has forcefully argued. The Roman Empire achieved a greater level of urbanization than many European countries in the early modern period. The urban system of the Roman Empire involved a transfer of wealth from the countryside, since wealth generated in the agrarian economy supported the economies of cities (see P. Erdkamp, ‘Beyond the limits of the “consumer city”: a model of the urban and rural economy in the Roman world’, Historia 50 [2001]: 332-56]. Crucially important for the functioning of cities were the members of the local town councils, who performed vital functions for the Roman Empire, in particular in the collection of taxes. The imperial government fostered their social and political privileges as a means of maintaining political order and fiscal stability. However, the Roman imperial government’s relationship with the local elites of the Roman Empire was subject to complexities. First, the imperial government and the locally powerful landowners who comprised these elites competed over the resources of the vast class of small farmers cultivating the land. The imperial government drew its tax revenues principally from the production of the empire’s rural workforce, while at the same time the local elites drew upon the resources of the rural labor force to gain their own incomes and also to make sure that essential liturgical functions in the cities were fulfilled. Second, from the point of view of the imperial government, the ability of local elites to perform their fiscal and liturgical functions depended on the continued economic viability of this group, which ultimately was a function of their continued access to land. But a broader point is that the production of the vast class of small farmers and agricultural workers provided the wealth that fueled the process of urbanism in the Roman Empire. By examining the complex policies of the Roman Empire toward landownership, I hope to come to a better understanding between the agrarian economy in the Roman Empire and the phenomenon of urbanism. For example, to some extent, the Roman government restrained the power of local elites by maintaining control of extensive state-owned properties. These gave the imperial government a direct source of important revenues and protected it from having to compete on a volatile private market for vital foodstuffs. But this policy also created a considerable class of imperial tenants with direct ties of economic dependence and patronage to the imperial government rather than locally powerful landowners. At the same time, the Roman government’s control over the resources of imperial estates compromised the economic power of the local elites in cities around the Roman Empire. In this paper, I hope to come to a better understanding of how such policies as these affected the productive capacity of the Roman rural economy.


9. Malczycki, W. Matt (Auburn) (malczycki@auburn.edu),

Caliphal Policy and the Baladiyyūn of Ifriqiya 757-800 CE


This paper focuses on Abbasid policy in Ifriqiya especially in regard to the baladiyyūn, Ifriqiya's Arab Sunni population. A substantial amount of recent research on early Islamic North Africa examines the Berbers and the kharijites; there is little work, however, on the baladiyyūn. Contrary to most modern assessments, the sources show that the baladiyyūn were neither ardent supporters of the caliphs nor intransigent rebels. They played a key rôle in balancing the tension between the center and the periphery. This paper begins by summarizing Umayyad North African policy through the short-lived independent Fihrid Emirate (744-757). It then describes how the Abbasids altered their North African policy based on what they had learned from the mistakes of the Umayyads. The main argument is that the emergence of the independent Aghlabid Emirate in 800 was the logical conclusion of Abbasid caliphal policy. Rather than seeing this independence as an aberration or a sign of caliphal weakness, it might be more constructive to view it in terms of the maturation of Abbasid North African policy.


10. Manning, Joseph (New Haven) (joseph.manning@yale.edu),

Patrimonial Power, State Power, and Land in Greco-Roman Egypt


This paper examines land holding patterns in Greco-Roman Egypt and the complex historical relationships between patrimonial and state power in the dynamic environment of the Nile river valley. Careful attention will be paid in the paper to the relationship between elite land holding, inheritance patterns and obligations, namely state service and taxation, institutions and state power. I will examine in detail the legal regime reforms begun by the Ptolemaic state with respect to land, as well as new economic institutions such as the public auction established to assign new rights to property. This paper will also survey the ancient institution of temple land holding and analyze the impact of Ptolemaic and Roman governance on it.


11. Mathisen, Ralph (Urbana) (ralphwm@illinois.edu),

The Settlement of Barbarians in the Late Roman World: Barbarians Who Got Something


A key question for our understanding of the nature of the barbarian settlement in the western Roman Empire, and by implication the nature of barbarian power acquisition, is the process by which individual barbarians gained legal possession of landed property (as opposed to something less tangible, such as a share of tax revenues). At the turn of the fifth century, none of the barbarian invaders of Gaul and Italy, for example, had legal title to landed property – they had not even gotten there yet. But by the mid sixth century, as seen in Gregory of Tours, the Variae, letter collections, and other sources, individual Franks, Burgundians, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths had come into possession of real estate. We rarely are told how they acquired it, but it is clear that between 400 and 550 large numbers of barbarians acquired legal title to land. These barbarian landholders became the bearers of power and authority in just the same way as senatorial landowners had done during the Roman Empire. In the past, historians who have investigated how barbarians gained possession of property, including Goffart and a multitude of others, usually have adopted a ‘top down’ strategy, that is, they have attempted to identify generalized governmental policies – often adduced from barbarian law codes – that lay behind land acquisition. By a process of deduction they then have made suggestions regarding how individual parcels of land – sortes – came into the hands of individual barbarians. The problem with this approach, however, is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find examples of individual barbarians who were granted a sors. This paper, however, proposes to adopt a ‘bottom up’ strategy by looking at case studies of individual barbarians who gained possession of property during this period and then analyzing the means by which they did so. Looking at land acquistion in this way can help us understand the nature of the acquisition of power and authority by individual barbarians more from a practical as opposed to a theoretical perspective.


12. Mazza, Roberta (Manchester) (roberta.mazza@manchester.ac.uk),

Land and Power in Late Antiquity: The Egyptian Point of View


This paper will discuss the role of aristocratic great estates (endoxoi oikoi) in Byzantine Egypt. The analysis of some case-studies – e.g. the archives and dossiers of the Apions and other great landowners – will show that the senatorial Egyptian élite was a force of cohesion inside the province operating at different levels. As far as we can reconstruct them, the careers of many Egyptian senators demonstrate both a direct participation in the running of the empire at the court level, and a close involvement in the administrative, economic and cultural life of the province. The large estates functioned as centres of creation and promotion of the civic élites constituted by their administrators and stewards, as place of negotiation between the different layers of the State administration and local communities, and finally as centres of diffusion of cultural and religious policies often boosted by Constantinople. Despite some social and political tensions, overall the Egyptian evidence attests the permanence of a powerful administrative machine, of which the oikoi were an essential part.


13. Moreno García, Juan Carlos (Paris) (jcmorenogarcia@hotmail.com),

Land, Elites and Officialdom in Pharaonic Egypt: Land Tenure Strategies in Elite Building and State Reproduction


Egyptian sources provide very scarce evidence about privately owned land. Only in some cases a clear distinction is made between patrimonial wealth (the “house of the father”) and remuneration in land linked to the service of the monarchy and its institutions. As for private acquisition, inscriptions reveal that people in need could be forced to sell their fields because of debts, bad harvests, etc. Therefore institutional land figures prominently in the sources, and it gave place to different strategies. The king, for instance, granted land in order to reward his officials, to assert its presence in chosen areas or to put local potentates under his influence. As for high officials, they often donated part of their landed assets to temples in order to avoid family meddling and dispose of it freely. So concepts like private/”public”, individual/collective, official/non-official, temporary/permanent defined the limits within which different strategies were played by the king and the elite in pursuit of their respective goals, sometimes coincident sometimes quite divergent. In the end the compatibility of such goals not only affected the reproduction of the monarchy and of the elite itself. It was also a matter of the very survival of the state and its institutions, thus preventing the appearance of “feudal” tendencies and providing instead institutional stability to the kingdom.


14. Morony, Michael (Los Angeles) (morony@history.ucla.edu),

Issues and Opportunities in the Study of Land and Power [Keynote]


15. Palme, Bernhard (Vienna) (bernhard.palme@univie.ac.at),

From City Council to Senate: Landlords from Late Antique Egypt Becoming Imperial Aristocrats


Research on „Land and Power“ in Late Antique Egypt has focused on the large land­owners, who exercised considerable economic and political power in the Chora during the 6th and early 7th centuries AD. Powerful dynasties of landowners like the Apions – to quote just the most prominent and best documented example – dominate the scene and our sources. Much progress has been made in understanding the internal structure of big househoulds (oikoi), their rôle in local communities and economies, and their organization of work force, while their interaction with state institutions as well as their relations to representatives of the central government are still open to debate. Much less clear, however, are the conditions that made such an extensive accumulation of land possible. How could some individuals or families acquire large portions of the arable land, and how does this process fit to the frequently lamented economic decline of members of the city councils (curiales) in the course of the 4th and 5th centuries? On the basis of the papyrological evidence, this paper will argue that the 5th century experienced a divide of the curial class into some families getting richer while others, burdened by taxes and munera, became impoverished. Some examples of Egyptian curiales advancing in imperial service may hint to the mechanism of this massive social change also beyond the boundaries of Egypt.


16. Paulus, Susanne (Münster) (kudurru@gmx.de),

The System of Landownership in the Middle Babylonian Time (1500-1000 BC)


This talk will analyze the special system of landownership installed by the Kassite kings in Babylonia around 1500 BC. The aim is to explain the historical development and function of this system, highlighting strengths and weaknesses and comparing it with the previous Old Babylonian and the Early Neobabylonian systems. The main focus will be put on the social group of landowners, their offices and relationship to the king, comparing landownership with other means of compensation, especially prebends and rations. Finally, I will also be showing in what ways the land owning élite was controlled by the king, as well as how they reacted on problems and restrictions linked with their property.


17. Pirngruber, Reinhard (Vienna) (reinhard.pirngruber@univie.ac.at),

Land and Power in Late Achaemenid Babylonia


In first millennium BC Babylonia, the crown owned and put at the disposal of various officials substantial tracts of land, and equally important, of water rights. The aim of this paper is to review the ways these claims to the most important means of production were turned into tangible benefits (in form of rents and taxes, both in kind and in silver), and for whom. In line with the general topic of the conference, the interplay between economic power and officialdom as well as the consequences of the resulting pattern of land tenure – taken as reflection of the structure of power relationships at large – shall be discussed. The documentary basis is the Murašû-Archive, a private archive from the city of Nippur, dating to the last quarter of the 5th century BC.


18. Reculeau, Hervé (Paris) (hreculeau@noos.fr),

Patrimonial and Official Land-Tenure in 2nd Millennium Upper Mesopotamia


As in most pre-modern societies, ownership of land and means of cultivation (or at least their actual control) was one of the main bases of power of the ruling elites in Upper Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium bce. Cuneiform archives excavated at several sites in the Jezirah and the Middle Euphrates for a period ranging between the 19th and 12th centuries bce show a constant interest in land, through a variety of textual sources reflecting a variety of access to land. Administrative texts testify for direct tilling of fields by the palatial institution, but also for the allotment of crownland to palatial dependents, as a retribution for work. Legal documents, on the other hand, bear witness of land-acquiring strategies by private agents or families, through land-purchase, pledges for debt, or even royal donations. These documents reflect the complex interactions between what could be tagged in Weberian terms as a bureaucratic authority (the palatial institution, its administrative hierarchy and officers), and a social structure which remained primarily patrimonial. Tensions between these two models can be seen at work throughout the millennium, with a marked tendency for the palatial elites to conceive political power more and more in terms of territorial/administrative control, rather than in terms of patrimonial/personnal control. Yet, never during the 2nd millennium bce did one conception entirely prevail over the other, and the balance between them varied along time, following an unlinear path – this also more since, as a general rule, traditional local-based elites were also involved in palatial service. The present paper wishes to present briefly how these contradictory conceptions of power impacted access to land by the ruling elites, by focusing on two rather different situations – which are also the best-documented. The first case-study will be the kingdom of Mari in the time of king Zimrī-Lîm (18th c. bce): there, in a time when the patrimonial conception, complicated by a tribal social structure based on kin-relationships, was prevalent, palatial archives show how the bureaucratic logic of the institution was blurred by patrimonial strategies of its members – to begin with the king himself, altogether master of the household, leader of men and highest authority of the institution. The second case-study will concentrate on Assyria during its expansion phase (14th-12th c. bce), in a time when the territorial/centralized conception of power was much stronger: there, it has been argued, the king was the ultimate owner of all land, and all plot was primarily detained ex officio – even if land-acquiring strategies of magnates at the service of the king secondarily led to the development of important familial patrimonies. This view, I believe, need to be reconsidered.


19. Sarris, Peter (Cambridge) (pavs2@cam.ac.uk),

Land and Power in Byzantium c. 700–1000


In recent years major advances have been made in our understanding of the agrarian economy of the East Roman Empire of the fourth to seventh centuries AD. In particular, historians are now more aware of the extent of late antique economic prosperity and of the economic role of directly managed large estates in the late antique countryside. This paper argues that our new understanding of the late antique economy has major implications for how we should read and interpret our evidence for the agrarian economy of the Middle Byzantine Empire of the eighth to twelfth centuries. In western Asia Minor and around Constantinople, it is suggested, there is considerable evidence in the documentary and legal sources for the survival of traditions of direct management on estates worked by forms of tied agricultural wage labour. At the same time, the archaeological evidence is increasingly revealing a much higher degree of continuity from the late antique to Middle Byzantine periods across these same regions than historians have traditionally argued. In these core territories of the medieval Byzantine state, the major period of structural change seems to have come not in the seventh century, but rather in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with the emergence of a more fully feudal “Comnenian mode of production”.


20. Scheuble-Reiter, Sandra (Chemnitz) (sandra.scheuble@phil.tu-chemnitz.de),

Zur wirtschaftlichen Bedeutung militärischer Landzuweisungen am Beispiel der ptolemäischen Reiterei


Mit der Eroberung Ägyptens durch Alexander den Großen 332 v. Chr. und der daran anschließenden Inbesitznahme des Landes durch die Dynastie der Ptolemäer (323–30 v. Chr.) kam eine Vielzahl griechisch-makedonischer Soldaten nach Ägypten. Um diese Soldaten, vor allem Angehörige der Reiterei, auch auf Dauer an sich zu binden, siedelten die ptolemäischen Könige sie mit einem Landlos, Kleros, als wichtigster Versorgungsleistung in der ägyptischen Chora an. Die Kleroi waren Bestandteil der βασιλικὴ γῆ und somit Eigentum des Königs. Dennoch durften die Reiter in einem gewissen Umfang, der im Laufe der Zeit immer größer wurde, über sie verfügen: Sie konnten das Land an ihren Sohn weitervererben, der ihren Platz im Militär einnahm, und gegen Ende der Ptolemäerzeit sogar über ein weibliches Familienmitglied der nächsten Generation weitergeben. Zudem durften sie, wenn sie für ihre Steuern nicht mehr aufkommen konnten, Teile ihres Kleros an einen anderen Reiter abtreten, der für ihre Steuerschulden aufkam. In der Forschung wird gemeinhin davon ausgegangen, dass sich die Reiter diese Rechte im Laufe der Zeit angeeignet hätten, während das geschwächte lagidische Königshaus ihre Verfahrensweisen nur noch nachträglich legitimierte und dadurch eines großen Teiles seiner Einkünfte verlustig ging. Zur Überprüfung dieser Annahme wird in einem ersten Schritt der Frage nachgegangen, welche wirtschaftliche Bedeutung die Reiter und ihre Kleroi für den König hatten. In einem weiteren Schritt soll das Wechselspiel zwischen den Angehörigen der Reiterei und dem König bzw. seiner Verwaltung näher beleuchtet werden, d.h. steuerliche Privilegierungen der Reiter und ihrer Ländereien, Forderungen der Reiter auf bestehende Steuerprivilegien sowie die Reaktion des Königs und seiner Funktionäre. Vor dem Hintergrund der daraus gewonnen Ergebnisse ist schließlich der Frage nachzugehen, ob die Reiterei letztlich zu einem Unruheherd in der ägyptischen Chora und einem finanziellen Risiko wurde oder doch eine zuverlässige Stütze für die Könige bildete.


21. Selz, Gebhard (Vienna) (gebhard.selz@univie.ac.at)

Property, Land Tenure, and Rights of Disposal: A Glimpse on Mesopotamian Sources of the 3rd Millennium


This contribution summarizes on-going discussions concerning institutional versus private land tenure in mid third millennium Mesopotamia. It challenges the prevailing points of view by questioning the adequacy of a rather abstract modern concept property rights and arguing instead for a reconstruction of rather complex and many-faceted system of rights of disposal connected to and embedded a socially highly stratified society.


22. Tost, Sven (Vienna) (sven.tost@univie.ac.at),

The riparii domorum gloriosarum: Police Power and Large-Scale Landholding in Late Antique Egypt


This paper aims to evaluate the documentary evidence of local security forces in order to re-examine the interaction of public administrative matters and private landownership in Late Antique Egypt (4th to 8th century AD). It seizes the question of whether or how far the existence of large-scale landholding might have affected or even undermined the executive power of the public authorities. Since the maintenance of public order and security ranks among the core tasks regarding the exercise of power and the control of resources, I will draw the attention to a handful of papyri that show a close connection between large estates and local police officials. Early scholarship reckoned this evidence as a clear indication of a socio-economic shift in the wake of a ‘feudalisation’ of society. My analysis of source material will focus on recent discussions about the integration of local landowners and aristocrats into the administrative system as well as a balance of public and private interests in order to achieve governmental efficiency.


23. Varisco, Daniel Martin (Hempstead) (daniel.m.varisco@hofstra.edu),

Why the Sultan is Rich: A Case Study of Bureaucracy in Rasulid Yemen (13th-14th centuries)


When Marco Polo returned from China at the end of the 13th century, he described the sultan of Yemen, al-Malik al-Muzaffar Yusuf as being fabulously wealthy. While much of this wealth came from customs on the lucrative trade through the port of Aden, the Rasulid dynasty also evolved an effective bureaucracy with vast land holdings and a broad tax base on agricultural and animal products. This paper will examine the extent of the Rasulid diwan in controlling the means of production in Yemen. The Rasulid emirs entered Yemen in the 12th century as mercenary retainers of the Ayyubids, but came into power on their own by the mid 13th century. For over a century they maintained effective control of the Yemeni coastal region and fertile southern highlands, creating stability for a productive agricultural production and trade system. The focus of the study will be the system which the Rasulids used to maintain control over production in a geographically diverse region resistant to centralized political control. What factors allowed for an effective centralized bureaucracy without precedent, as well as one needing to contest local tribal interests? Court documents, tax records and agricultural treatises provide a rich corpus for analysis of the relation of land and power in the Rasulid state.


24. Waerzeggers, Caroline (Leiden) (c.waerzeggers@hum.leidenuniv.nl),

The Persian State in Babylonia: Integration and Control of Office-Holding Élites


In this paper I will address the second aim of the conference as outlined in the First Circular: how the state sought to integrate and control office-holding élites. I will work with Achaemenid Babylonia as case-study. After the upheavals of 521-20 BC, which almost brought an end to the Persian Empire, the state put several mechanisms in place that were designed to integrate and control local office-holders. Cuneiform records from the reign of Darius the Great allow us to study the nature and impact of some of these. I will argue that the combined effect of these measures created a particular cocktail that, inadvertently, led to another revolt (484 BC). The question how the state achieved a more stable control of Babylonia after this event, during the so-called mature Empire (5th-4th century BC) will be explored.


25. Stern, Matthias (Vienna) (matthias-stern@gmx.de)
Pagarchs and Public Security in Late Antique Egypt [Poster presentation]