Navigation auf


Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Lehrstuhl Alonso

HS23: Ancient Egyptian Legal History

hs23 flyer EN

(Vst.-Nr. 3642)


While ancient authors such as Herodotus and Diodorus report that famous Greek statesmen were so impressed by Egyptian law that they drew inspiration from it for their own legislation, ancient Egypt has for a long time been largely ignored in modern legal historiography. One reason for this is certainly that the Egyptian sources in hieroglyphic, hieratic or demotic script were hardly accessible for «classically» trained legal historians. A further reason may have been the assumption, more or less explicitly shared to this day by many legal historians, of the superiority of Roman law, so that earlier legal systems are regarded from the outset as primitive and thus dogmatically less interesting. Yet the fundamental questions that the ancient Egyptians asked themselves were obviously the same ones that led to the formation of our legal systems: How to achieve peaceful coexistence in society and also within the family? Who decides in disputes between two parties, and on what basis? Thus, already from a comparative law perspective, ancient Egyptian law is a rewarding field of study. In the nearly 3000 years of Egyptian legal history, moreover, both continuities and developments can be discerned, which make a diachronic examination of specific realms of the law just as engrossing.

Through selected sources spanning from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period, we will examine in detail the areas of family and inheritance law. Not only is the Egyptian documentation on these topics particularly rich, but also diverse, as it offers us insight into the various strategies both for conflict resolution and for conflict avoidance that Egyptian law provided. Through these sources, the participants in the Seminar will become acquainted with one of the oldest legal cultures in historical memory, explore the challenges of reconstructing it today, and gain a direct insight into the lives of men and women who for the Greeks and Romans already represented humanity's most venerable antiquity


List of topics:

Topic 1: Succession Dispute in the 6th Dynasty (2350–2150 BC): P. Berlin 9010

Topic 2: Two Testaments of the 12th Dynasty (1850–1800 BC): P. Kahun I. 1 and VIII. 1 

Topic 3: Inheritance Disputes Across Generations: Funerary Inscriptions of Mes (18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1200 BC)

Topic 4: The Inheritance of a Childless Couple: P. Ashmolean Museum 1945.96 (20th Dynasty, ca. 1190–1070 BC)

Topic 5: A Mother and eight Children: P. Ashmolean Museum 1945.97 (20th Dynasty, ca. 1150 BC)

Topic 6: Testament Regulations from the New Kingdom: Stele Cairo CG 34016, Amarah Stele and Stele Cairo JE 31882

Topic 7: Egyptian Law of Inheritance under Foreign Rule: The Provisions of the Code of Hermopolis (3rd Century BC)      

Topic 8: One House and Several Heirs: P. Brit. Mus. EA 10446 (230 BC)

Topic 9: Egyptian Courts under Macedonian Rule: A Judgment in Siut (P. Brit. Mus. EA 10591 r., 170 BC)

Topic 10: The Tortuous Path of an Inheritance: A Dispute between two Women over Inheritance Claims: P. Köln XVII 675 (114 BC)

Topic 11: A Cavalry man with seven Children: P. Moscow 123 (68 BC)      

Topic 12: Eight Siblings in Roman Egypt: P. Dime III 37 (21/2 BC)


Credits and records:

The seminar is open to bachelor- and masterstudents. The bachelor-thesis is awarded 6 ECTS and must consist of approx. 25 pages (excl. bibliography etc.). The master-thesis must be awarded exactly 12 ECTS since the academic reform and it has to consist of approx. 40 pages.

Date and Place
Briefing: Tuesday, 18th of April at 12:15 over Zoom (Link in the seminar guidelines)
Introduction with Dr. Sandra Lippert: Monday, 8th of May at 12:15 over Zoom
(Link in the seminar guidelines)
Slides from the introduction here (PDF, 20 MB)
Seminar: November 24th/25th 2023; Zurich
Participation and further Information
For the procedure and further information please consider the: seminar guidelines (PDF, 474 KB)
The application for the seminar runs through the Applicationtool RWF. If you have any questions regarding the content of our seminar don't hesitate to contact us:



Dr. Sandra Lippert

Prof. Dr. Athina Dimopoulou

Sandra Lippert is an Egyptologist and was employed in the project "Soknopaiu Nesos according to the demotic sources of Roman times" in Würzburg from 2000 to 2005. In 2002, she obtained her doctorate at the University of Würzburg with her thesis "Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch. Studies on pBerlin P 23757 rto", she received her doctorate. She then worked as an assistant (akademische Rätin auf Zeit) at the Institute for the Cultures of the Ancient Near East (IANES) in Tübingen. After her Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (2011–2013) at the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, she has been working at the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) since 2013.

In her research, Sandra Lippert focuses primarily on law and economics in ancient Egypt, with a particular interest in the Greek and Roman periods. Questions concerning history and religion in the Fayum also take up a large part of her research. In addition, she has published previously unedited demotic texts, which are important for understanding jurisprudential issues, among other things. Her monograph "Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte" (Münster 2008), is a standard work that was already published in a second edition in 2012.