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Monday, March 02, 2009

Ruffini, Giovanni. Social networks in Byzantine Egypt. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. x, 278 p. $110.00. ISBN 9780521895378.

Social Networks in Byzantine Egypt
Giovanni Roberto Ruffini
Fairfield University, Connecticut
Hardback (ISBN-13: 9780521895378)
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Social network analysis maps relationships and transactions between people and groups. This is the first book-length application of this method to the ancient world, using the abundant documentary evidence from sixth-century Oxyrhynchos and Aphrodito in Egypt. Professor Ruffini combines a prosopographical survey of both sites with computer analyses of the topographical and social networks in their papyri. He thereby uncovers hierarchical social structures in Oxyrhynchos not present in Aphrodito, and is able for the first time to trace the formation of the famous Apion estate. He can also use quantitative techniques to locate the central players in the Aphrodito social landscape, allowing us to see past the family of Dioskoros to discover the importance of otherwise unknown figures. He argues that the apparent social differences between Oxyrhynchos and Aphrodito in fact represent different levels of geographic scale, both present within the same social model.

• The first book on ancient history to use anthropological and sociological techniques of network analysis • The first full-length study of social structures in Byzantine Egypt • Relies on documentary evidence from ancient papyri generated by small-town peasants and landholders; this produces a book that zooms in on the daily lives of ordinary people much more closely than other books of late Roman history on the market


Introduction; 1. The centralized elite of Oxyrhynchos; 2. The growth of the Apions; 3. Aphrodito and the strong ties of village society; 4. Quantifying Aphrodito’s social network; Conclusion.