naubion ναύβιον

In ancient Egypt, a unit of volume used to describe an amount of earth. In Ptolemaic times (305 – 30 bce) it was a cube 2 meh (the royal cubit) on a side; thereafter in Roman times a cube 3 meh on a side. Taking the meh at 52.5 centimeters, in Ptolemaic times the naubion was about 1.16 cubic meters, and under the Romans about 3.91 cubic meters.

Egyptian agriculture, of course, was extremely dependent on the maintenance of the irrigation systems that brought water from the Nile. To maintain and enlarge these systems, as well as for other public works, large quantities of earth had to be moved. People moved it, sometimes with the aid of donkeys, and apparently usually in fulfillment of a tax obligation. The naubion played a large part in this tax, since the tax seems to have specified a given number of naubion per year. Most of what we know about the naubion comes from these tax records, whether on potsherds (ostraka) or papyri.

Naubion was also the name of the tax itself, often translated into English as “dike-tax.” It could be paid in money rather than labor.

sources

1

Als Kubikmass, nach dem die bei den Erdarbeiten fortzushaffenden Erdmassen berechnet wurden, begegnet das Naubion (ναύβιον), das in der Ptolemäerzeit = 2 königlichen Ellen in Kubik, in der Kaiserzeit = 3 königlichen Ellen (= 1 ξύλον) im Kubik war. Vgl. unten S. 330, 334, 336. Das ἀωίλιον der Ptolemäerzeit fällt mit dem ναύβιον zusammen.

As a unit of volume, by which they reckoned the masses of earth moved during excavations, one encounters the naubion, which in Ptolemaic times = 2 meh (royal cubits) cubed, in the imperial times = 3 meh (royal cubits) (= 1 xylon) cubed . Compare pages 330, 334, 336, below. The aoilion of Ptolemaic times is equivalent to the naubion.

Ulrich Wilcken.
Grundzüge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde, vol 1, 1st half.
Leipzig-Berlin: B. G. Teubner, 1912.
Page lxxii.

Als Raummaß zur Berechnung von Erdarbeiten deutete ich es in Ostraka I 262. Die genauere Berechnung auf 2 königliche Ellen Kubik gaben Jouguet-Lesquier zu Lille 1. Damit ist zugleich erwiesen, daß, wie ich l. c. angenommen hatte, das Naubion an Größe identisch ist mit dem Aoilion, das Smyly, Petr. III S. 339ff., gleichfalls auf 2 königliche Ellen Kubik berechnet hat. Uber die Vergrösserung des Naubionmaßes in römischer Zeit s. unten S. 334.

I interpreted [the naubion] in Ostraka I 262 as a unit of volume. The more exact estimate of 2 meh (royal cubits) cubed was given by Jouquet-Lesquier in connection with Lille 1. This also establishes that, as I had assumed, the naubion is identical in size to the aoilion, which Smyly had calculated to also be 2 meh (royal cubits) cubed (Petr. III pages 339ff). Concerning the enlargement of the naubion in Roman times, see page 334 below.

Wilcken, cited above, page 330.
Lille 1 = P. Jouguet, Papyrus Grecs I fasc. 1 & 2, 1907, 1908. Reprinted Milan: Cisalpino-Goliardica, 1975.
Petr. III = J. P. Mahaffy and J. G. Smyly, Flinders Petrie Papyri vol III (Dublin?) 1905.

Ich bemerke hierzu, daß Grenfell-Hunt gezeigt haben, daß das Naubion in der römischen und byzantinischen Zeit größer war als in der ptolemäischen, nämlich der Kubus von 3 königlichen Ellen (= 1 ξύλον). Vgl. ihre Bemerkungen zu Oxy. IV 669 und VII 1053 (auch Giss. 42) und meine Notiz zu dem ξυλομετρουντος in BGU 12 (389). Wenn man annimmt, daß auch damals noch ein bestimmtes Quantum von Naubien den Fronpflichtigen pro Jahr auferlegt war, wie in Par. 66, so muß man jene Quittungen auf Teilleistungen beziehen.

I note in this connection that Grenfell-Hunt has demonstrated that the naubion in Roman and Byzantine times was larger than in Ptolemaic, namely a cube of 3 meh (royal cubits). See their comments on Oxy. IV 669 and VII 1053 (also Giss. 42) and my note regarding the ξυλομετρουντος in BGU 12 (389). If we assume that even then a specified amount of the forced labor was imposed in naubion per year, as in par. 66, these receipts must represent partial payments.

Wilcken, cited above, page 334.
Oxy IV & VII = The Oxyrhynchus papyri. Edited with translations and notes by Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. London: Egypt Exploration Fund. Volume 4 came out in 1904 and volume 7 in 1910.
Giss = Griechische Papyri im Museum des Oberhessischen Geschichtsvereins zu Giessen. Im verein mit O. Eger hrsg. und erklärt von Ernst Kornemann und Paul M. Meyer. Reprint edition: Milan: Cisalpino-Goliardica, 1973-
BGU = Ägyptische Urkunden aus den königlichen Museen zu Berlin. Griechische Urkunden. Berlin: Staatliche Museen, 1895-.

resources

Images of some papyri that mention the naubion are available on the web, for example a village tax record www.papyri.info/ddbdp/p.mich;4.2;358A/

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