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Job Opening: Estates-Manager with many hats


As the estates-manager for Apollonios, Zenon held many undefined responsibilities. In the most general sense, Zenon controlled the operations of Apollonios’ large estate in Fayyum. However, he worked as the point of contact for every type of communication, ranging from the design of Philadelphia to being updated actions and needs of employees. Zenon’s role was crucial because Apollonios, the finance minister for Ptolemy II, was not the easiest to contact. From the Zenon Archive, we can gather a better understanding of the varying work of Zenon.  

Responsibilities of the role: 

            An important responsibility of Zenon was to take the lead and make decisions on moderately important affairs and problems that could not be communicated to Apollonios himself. Hierokles writes to Zenon informing him that the athlete Pyrrhos should be adequate, as well as reminding him about useful tools that ought to be brought to him. Apollonios does not need to have a direct role in this type of decision making and fulfillment of request. With this role, Zenon ensures that the estate’s image, outside of farming, runs smoothly. In addition, Zenon handles employee affairs issues. Satyra writes to him about her lack of pay and clothing allowance. Satyra writes “will you kindly inquire and inform Apollonios…remember us and see that we have something to wear”[1]As summarized from no. 77, it seems that Zenon handles this issue with no involvement from Apollonios. Thus, his responsibility is also to care for Apollonios’ personal workers, not just workers of the estate. Zenon also deals with the runaway cook who steals money that was for purchasing hay.[2]This shows the versatility of Zenon as he heads the non-farming operations of the estate, bringing the cook and dealing with the subsequent theft. 

            Zenon also acted in many ways as Apollonios’ secretary. Clients and employees alike contact Zenon as a way of getting their message through to Apollonios. Amyntas sends a messenger to Zenon with the intent of introducing him to Apollonios. In the letter concerning the messenger, Amyntas includes “as soon as you find Apollonios in a favorable mood.”[3]In this role, Zenon is the cool-headed secretary who will obey clients’ suggestions. In addition, Panakestor writes to Zenon hoping that he may help with their communication problem with Apollonios. Panakestor pleads, “Please remember us, and when you find a suitable moment with Apollonios, remind him about the notes I gave you.”[4]Although Zenon seems to have little to do with the previous letter writing between Panakestor and Apollonios, he now is the point of contact to engage with Apollonios. In this sense, he is the intermediary between Apollonios and the intermediaries[5]in the Fayyum farmlands. 

[1]Rather than writing to Apollonios, who is mostly likely busy acting as the finance minister for Ptolemy II, Satyra sends Zenon her complaints. Greek text: PCairZen 59028, Date: 258/7 B.C., Translated by: C.C. Edgar, ASAE vol. 23, no. 78

[2]Zenon is to announce the runaway cook to everyone as a means of catching and bringing him back. Greek text: PSI 329, Date: April 257 B.C., Translated by: M. Rostovtzeff, ‘A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C.’, p.30

[3]We may deduce that Apollonios was not the nicest boss in the land. In fact, he may have responded harshly to messages or else Amyntas would not have noted the mood of Apollonios. Greek text: PCairZen 59045, Date: March 257 B.C., Translated by: C.C. Edgar, ASAW vol, 23, no.82 

[4]Greek text: PSI 5.502,

[5]The Greek appointed in charge of the Egyptian farmers. 


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