A collection of biographical sketches. A prosopography of the persons named in the documents of Egypt, both Greek and Coptic, with information—so far as known—about their parents and their vocation, is a desideratum for various disciplines in the study of antiquity. It would serve for the dating and localizing of the texts so far as their origin is not known, and for the reconstruction of archives, which thereafter can be evaluated for the solution of many questions, including historical ones. A prosopography of Egypt from Ptolemaic times down to the Arab period, planned by F. Bilabel and other scholars, was not realized.
In its stead, there is The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire A.D. 260-640, planned by A. M. H. Jones and others in three volumes, the first two volumes of which appeared in 1971 and 1980. It should be supplemented by the Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire prepared by H. I. Marrou and others, of which the first volume, edited by A. Mandouze, appeared in 1982. However, it includes only Christian North Africa. In addition to these large works there are prosopographies of individual places. Older works, like the 1938 prosopography of Aphroditopolis by V. A. Girgis, based on the Greek documents, are superseded by the editions of papyri that have appeared since then.
Of more recent date is the Prosopographia Arsinoitica of J. M. Diethart (1980), which likewise is based on the Greek documents of the sixth to eighth centuries.
Of the prosopography of the Copts prepared by G. Heuser, only the first fascicle has appeared, extending to the beginning of the letter epsilon.
In 1962 W. Till provided a prosopography for the Coptic documents from Thebes, which unfortunately is not complete, since he did not evaluate the documents dug up at Madinat Habu and edited by E. Stefanski and M. Lichtheim. Many further discoveries of documents have become known since then (Krause, 1982, pp. 22ff.), to which must be added 1,400 ostraca in the monastery of Saint Mark at Qurnat Mar‘i, excavated by the French Archaeological Institute. In consequence some 3,000 documents found in Thebes must be worked into a new edition.
For other places in which many Coptic documents worthy of mention have been found (e.g., Hermopolis, Herakleopolis, and the Fayyum), there are no prosopographical works. For the Coptic documents from Aphroditopolis a beginning has been made by L. S. B. MacCoull.
- Diethart, J. M. Prosopographia Arsinoitica. Mitteilungen aus der Papyrussammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, n.s. 12. Vienna, 1980.
- Girgis, V. A. Prosopografia e Aphroditopolis. Berlin, 1938.
- Heuser, G. Die Kopten. Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums und des Mittelalters, ser C, Hilfsbücher Vol. 2. Heidelberg, 1938.
- Jones, A. M. H.; J. R. Martindale; and J. Morris. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. 1, A.D. 260-395. Cambridge, 1971; Vol. 2, by Martindale, A.D. 395-527. Cambridge, 1980; Vol. 3, A.D. 527-640 (in preparation).
- Krause, M. “Das christliche Theben: Neuere Arbeiten und Funde.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 24 (1982):21-33.
- MacCoull, L. S. B. “Additions to the Prosopography of Aphrodito from the Coptic Documents.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie Copte 25 (1983):91-94.
- Mandouze, A. Prosopographie de l’Afrique chrétienne (303-533),
- Vol. 1 of Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire, ed. H. I. Marrou. Paris, 1982.
- Stefanski, E., and M. Lichtheim. Coptic Ostraca from Medinet Habu. University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications 71. Chicago, 1952.
- Till, W. Datierung und Prosopographie der koptischen Urkunden aus Theben. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 240, 1. Vienna, 1962.