Social and Political Titles Trexler Library | Muhlenberg College

Roman Egypt was a heavily –perhaps rigidly—class-based society, and social and political titles were very important to establish hierarchy and social order.

Priests, arch-priests, “exegetes” (readers or legal advisors), councilors, all had definite ranks in Oxyrhnchus.  Individuals were keen to be named correctly, and legal formulae in the documents are precise.  Strategus originally meant general, a military rank, but by later Roman Egyptian times came to mean an important local administrator with considerable power.

Kyrios (or kurios) became a common term for a “peer” or local gentry, a far more common designation than the Christian term “lord” would suggest.  Similarly a gymnasiarch originally referred to a leader of a gymnasium –not only an athletic facilities, but an urban center for Greco-Roman males—but came to be almost honorific, a senior counselor of high standing who provided oils and other benefits for his peers.