Localized Law: The Babatha and Salome Komaise Archives

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In the early second century CE, two Jewish women, Babatha and Salome Komaise, lived in the village of Maoza on the southern coast of the Dead Sea. Formerly part of the Nabataean Kingdom, it came under direct Roman rule in 106 CE. Their paperwork survives and is remarkable in its legal diversity. Nabataean, Roman, ‘Hellenic’, and Jewish legal elements are all in evidence, often combined within a single papyrus. Consequently, identifying the supposed ‘operative law’ of the documents has proven a highly contentious task: scholarly advocates of each of these traditions have failed to reach any true consensus, and there remains division particularly between those who argue for a ‘Roman’ vs. a ‘Jewish framework. Taking a lead from recent advances in Roman law scholarship, this book suggests a change in focus: instead of attempting to identify the ‘legal system’ behind the documents, we should instead seek to understand the ‘legal culture’ of this community. In doing so, our attention turns to the ways in which the legal transactions in the papyri were understood by the various actors involved: the scribes, the litigants, legal advisors, local arbitrators, and Roman judges. The book, therefore, moves away from the systematic approach to become more of an historical study of ideas, attitudes, and perceptions of law. Yet it is also argued that this concentration on different agents’ understandings will ultimately help us to understand better the actual functioning of law and justice in this and other similar small communities in the Roman Empire.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages254
ISBN (Print)9780198777335
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2017

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Roman Society and Law
PublisherOxford University Press


  • law
  • papyrus
  • Jewish
  • woman
  • Roman law
  • legal culture
  • Roman rule
  • Nabataean Kingdom

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