J.G. Manning


This paper discusses the representation of justice in ancient Egypt. It is a subject that lies at the heart of the foundation of the Egyptian state and, I argue, stands at the beginning of the western jurisprudential tradition. Ancient Egypt is often portrayed as a place set apart from that tradition, whose origins are usually traced from Athens to Rome into Medieval Europe. Egypt has been "forgotten" in large part because of western political thought that has drawn a line between "despotic" Asian states and western democratic ones. I argue here that Egyptian conceptions of justice and the evidence of the adjudication of legal disputes during the Ptolemaic period (305-30 B.C.E.) allow us to suggest that Egypt is in fact a vital link between the ancient eastern Mediterranean world and later developments in western legal thought.