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Ancient Egyptian Law


Admission requirements


No actual law codes from ancient Egypt appear to have come down to us, although several legal manuals have survived, which some authors suggest are the actual law codes. In this course we will examine some of the basic aspects of the Egyptian legal system. To achieve this, we will examine these manuals as well as hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic sources such as sales, loans, donations, marriage and divorce, inheritance, lease, etc., including a famous lawsuit from Assyut (170 BC). The translations of these sources – mostly written on papyrus – will be provided prior to each class.

Course objectives

To acquaint students with the basic principles of the legal system of ancient Egypt and (demotic) papyrology using translations of legal documents from the Old Kingdom to the Roman Period.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar and own presentation

Assessment method

Student presentation on a legal source (c. 25 minutes) for 30% of final grade. Written exam at the end of the course after study of the mandatory literature (70% of final grade).
Resit if result of written exam is unsatisfactory

Reading list

  • J.G. Manning, ‘Egypt. Demotic Law’, in: (R. Westbrook (ed.), A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, Vol. 2 (Handbuch der Orientalistik / Handbook of Oriental Studies. Ägyptologie I, 72/2) 2003, pp. 819-862

  • K. Donker van Heel, Djekhy & Son. Doing Business in Ancient Egypt (2012)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof