The possession of land and private houses, as well as the slaves, was meticulously controlled in the transfers. The Alexandrian law provided that, once the agreement relating to a sale was formed between the parties, the characteristics of the thing sold, as well as the names of the parties and the agreed price, were communicated to the Quaestors, paying a tax at the same time: the Quaestors drafted the deed public, and they kept notes of all the contracts in sheets headed by the names of the sellers and ordered according to the demi in which the population of the city was divided. A similar queen existed among the Greeks scattered throughout the kingdom, except that the city magistrates were replaced by notaries, who were also obliged to keep the archive of the agreements drawn up with their ministry and not to draw up the new document without having checked that the matter was in the free availability of the seller. By perfecting the system, the Roman governors introduced two kinds of land books in each district capital: the books of possessions (βιβλιοϑῆκαι τῶν ἐγκτέσεων) for private lands and houses; the books of things of public reason (βιβλιοϑῆκαι δημοσίων λόγων) for the catecic lands: the sheets of these registers, called διαστρώματα, were in the name of the owners, and contained what was necessary for the description of the properties and their legal situation: the notaries required for the packaging of legal real estate businesses had to ask for authorization from the competent βιβλιοϑήκη. Form of advertising that would have strictly protected the rights of third parties, but which, despite the insistence of the governors of the century. I and II, was often overlooked: it was later dropped, and the rare mentions that are found after the constitutio Antoniniana are mere survivals. A new form of advertising of real estate rights was being established according to the general directives of late Roman law, especially with the insinuatio of transfers in the acts (deeds) of local magistrates.
The dispositions regarding the books of possessions (in particular the edict of the prefect Mezio Rufus transcribed in the famous petition of Dionisia, Pope Oxy. 23. 1) give us the most precise indications about the real rights known to Greco-Roman Egypt. Alongside the full and current possession, the mortgage must be entered in the books, understood as a possession in fieri, and above all that established on the husband’s assets as guarantee of the dowry; moreover, a characteristic ius ad rem which, according to a typically Egyptian practice, is usually constituted in the marriage contract for the benefit of future children, and which parents can at an appropriate time, between vivi or mortis causa, transform into the possession of individual children on specific assets. In the same way, the usufruct and residence rights, mentioned in the wills, had to be registered. On the other hand, easements were not considered as autonomous rights, conceived according to the cases or as legal limitations of the property or – especially for rights of way – as appurtenances of the property.
In papyri, contracts have a large part, not ordered according to immutable types but tending, however, to be stylized, according to times and districts, in typical formulas. Amanto to the sale the μίσϑωσις is widespread, as varied in attitudes as the locatio Roman: rent of land and houses, partial colonies, aid, bailiff, apprenticeship and service contracts. The general economic conditions reverberate there, not only in the prevalence of money or in kind, but also in the pitiful disparity between the parties in the saddest centuries: in the Byzantine era, service and training contracts take on the appearance of dedications to servitude, and even the rents of land and houses, the term of which is set at the discretion of the landlord, become attenuated forms of colonization. Loan contracts (δάνειον), in money and commodities, are also very frequent, constructed as formal and executive securities, often bearer: current accounts with banks give rise to transfer transactions, and create a special type of banking documentation, which competes with notarial documents.
The principle of the execution of the obligations on the person of the debtor, to which many documents refer, gives rise in certain Demotic papyri to the debtor’s fall into slavery; more often the debtor submits at the moment of the contract to the rules in force for the Persians τής ἐκιγδονῆς, with the consequence of falling into an almost servile condition that lasts until the debt is deducted. But in the imperial era the principle of execution seems to have prevailed over the patrimony.
In the family the differences between Egyptians and Greeks are more pronounced: united the former in compact organisms, held together by the reserve that in marriage contracts is made in favor of the unborn and by the property in common hands administered by the firstborn, often for a long order of generations; the latter, on the other hand, gathered together only what is necessary for the rearing of the offspring, but with an always clear distinction between the capacity of right, also due to the children of the family, and the capacity to act of which the young is lacking up to the age of 18: the father and the guardian are both legal representatives of the minor. Much lighter is the protection (of the husband or of the child or of the next relative) to which women are subject; indeed it can be considered a mere survival; tant ‘
Marriage is lawful and very common between brother and sister, excluded in principle among the various nationalities: there is no trace of polygamy. The relative act presents, especially among Egyptians, various types, distinguishing in particular a marriage of full law and a morganatic marriage, but perhaps even this opposition has been reduced since the Ptolemaic age to a divergence of formulation. In the Roman era, the antithesis between written marriage (γάμος ἔγγραϕος) and unwritten (ἄγραϕος) dominates, with a variety of effects that are perhaps explained by the application of Greek family law when there is a writing that conforms to it, of the law Roman and his iron paternal power when no provisions have been made. The dowry brought by the wife often corresponds to a nuptial donation, poured it out by her husband or promised her in the case of divorce: Egyptian families often live, both in the Ptolemaic age and in the Byzantine age, in a regime of universal communion of goods. Divorce is lawful at any time, and practiced – apparently – frequently.
The inheritance, which among the Egyptians is resolved in the free availability of predestined goods or in an increase in the expectations of goods in common hands, follows among the Greeks, and in that large part of the indigenous population who imitated their custom, the principle of division in equal parts between the children or between the descendants, with the exclusion of the married and gifted daughter, but with the clear tendency to eliminate for each other the profound differentiation that the Greeks placed between the two sexes elsewhere: a rule as much as never a characteristic, which now seems to have been established, is that in the case of a second marriage the goods are divided equally between the two beds. In the absence of descendants, one passes, always in conformity with the Greek common law, to the relatives respectively descendants from the father, from the ancestor, from the bisavo of the inheriting (the father excludes the brothers, but the children of the dead brother compete with the uncles for the share that would have been due to their father; and similarly in other relatives); the rule was accepted, as regards paternal kinship, in Justinian law.
The Greeks were responsible for introducing the will, which is usually a public notarial testament, rarely secret: in the determination of successors in a universal and particular title, in the possibility of concurrence of the testamentary delation with the legitimate one, in the admission of disinheritance, freedom is maximum. The Egyptians, who in Roman times made great use of the Greek institution, nevertheless preferred special types of inter liberos divisions, often merged with the marriage contract between the parents or with that relating to one or two of the descendants (συγγραϕοδιαϑῆκαι): to indigenous tradition also responds to the donation mortis causa irrevocabile, practiced – in manifest opposition to imperial law – even after Justinian.