Nubia’s Legal Tradition

Giovanni R. Ruffini

in Medieval Nubia

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199891634
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199980048 | DOI:
Nubia’s Legal Tradition

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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This chapter explores the history of medieval Nubia’s documentary legal tradition. It argues that the most logical origin for that tradition is earlier roots in Greco-Roman and Coptic traditions in Egypt. Several other aspects of the Nubian documentary tradition?particularly its letter-writing practices?show close affinities to antecedents in Greco-Roman Egypt. Land sales written in Old Nubian bear a number of similarities to earlier sales written in Greek and Coptic. Coptic sales are found in both Egypt and Nubia and represent a historical bridge in Nubia’s adoption of legal forms inherited from late antique Egypt. Although the bulk of our evidence comes from Qasr Ibrim, fragmentary texts from other Nubian sites demonstrate that the legal forms found at Qasr Ibrim were widespread throughout medieval Nubia. An examination of Old Nubian legal vocabulary highlights a number of apparent Greek and Latin loanwords, reinforcing the connection between Nubian law and Mediterranean antiquity. This legal tradition died out in the Ottoman period, when property rights and sales in Nubia show features of Islamization and discontinuity with the past.

Keywords: Greco-Roman land sales; Coptic land sales; Arabic sales; Nubian legal vocabulary; Funj; Nuba; Ottoman Nubia

Chapter.  12298 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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