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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

REVIEW: Itzhak F. Fikhman, Andrea Jördens, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft im spätantiken Ägypten. Kleine Schriften.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.07.37
Itzhak F. Fikhman, Andrea Jördens, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft im spätantiken Ägypten. Kleine Schriften. Historia Einzelschriften 192. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2006. Pp. xviii, 380. ISBN 3-515-08876-8. €72.00.

Reviewed by Karl Strobel, Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt (karl.strobel@uni-klu.ac.at)
Word count: 2493 words

This volume presents a series of important contributions by I. F. Fikhman which are focussed on the history of economy and society in late antique and early Byzantine Egypt until the middle 7th c. AD. A. Joerdens and G. Becht-Joerdens provide an introduction with a sketch of the life and the work of Fikhman under the difficult conditions of the communist Regime in the Soviet Union.1 Fikhman, who became a well-known papyrologist also in the West, left post-communist Russia in 1990 for Israel because of the omnipresent anti-Semitism. Born in a Jewish family in Kishinew in 1921, he lost most of his library when leaving Russia. A bibliography of Fikhmans's work (184 titles) is given on pp. 369-380. In this volume eight contributions are published for the first time in a western language, i.e. German, without any changes or annotations. The other articles were already published in Western languages in different collections and papyrological journals. They are often based on earlier contributions in Russian. All the articles in this book are published or reprinted without corrections or additions. It is a great pity that many of Fikhman's important contributions in Russian were not known in the West, especially his books on craftsmen and the conditions of their professions in late antique and early Byzantine Egypt and on Oxyrhynchos.2 The city of Oxyrhynchos, municipal offices, decuriones, great landownership, professional corporations and the conditions of crafts are the focus of his research based on the papyrological evidence and not on communist theory. Today, several new publications complementary to Fikhman's studies are still important for the current research.3 Fikhman's contributions are first of all devoted to the flourishing period of the early Byzantine cities and economy in the eastern Mediterranean during the 5th and early 6th c. AD. Infrastructure and far-reaching transport and exchange were still maintained, as well as the high standard of agriculture. Enormous building activities may be seen in the churches and monasteries of the 5th and 6th c. AD. Private trade and commerce on the local, regional, interregional and international level were still of great importance, the commercialization of agricultural production reached a new climax in the early 6th c. AD. The monetary system and the system of taxes were fixed conditions of everyday life and of the economy.


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