Association internationale de Papyrologues

International Association of Papyrologists

In memoriam Pieter Willem Pestman


Discours prononcé durant l'Assemblée Générale de l'AIP réunie à Genève le 21 août 2010
Speech delivered during the General Assembly of the AIP gathered in Warsaw on Geneva on August 21st, 2010 par - by: Francisca A.J. Hoogendijk

On the 14th of May of this year Pieter Willem Pestman died in Pancalieri, in his beloved Italy, at the age of 77. He was a respected Papyrologist as well as Demotist, and was a member of the Comité International of our Association from 1977 until his retirement in 1998.

Born in 1933 in Amsterdam, Pestman studied Law at the University of Utrecht and later at Leiden, where he also studied Papyrology and Egyptian Law. His dissertation of 1961, supervised by Prof. David, was entitled: 'Marriage and Matrimonial Property in Ancient Egypt'. Pestman further studied Demotic in Paris. He then returned to Leiden University, where he became researcher, lecturer and from 1969 onwards Professor of the History of Law of Ancient Egypt and of Ancient Greece, and of Juridical Papyrology, at the Leiden Papyrological Institute.

Under the leadership of Pestman the Leiden Institute, already well established under David and Van Groningen, expanded in size and research areas. Pestman was a pioneer in combining research in Greek as well as Demotic Papyrology in one Institute. He set an example for studying archives with his international Zenon Project which resulted in the publication of the well-known Guide to the Zenon Archive. He also published the archives of Amenothes, Dionysios, the Theban Choachytes and Tsenhor. Pestman’s publications on chronology and juridical subjects are often cited, and he played an important role in the organization of papyrology: he improved the accuracy, clarity and user friendliness of the Greek Berichtigungsliste, and encouraged the creation of a Demotic Berichtigungsliste as well as a Demotic Checklist. His list of publications includes almost 150 titles of often influential monographs and articles and the editorship of books and series.

Pestman was internationally orientated and had good contacts with papyrologists all over the world. Many colleagues were guests of the Leiden institute and often a beginning papyrologist came from abroad to learn Demotic in Leiden. In 1985 Pestman was elected 'foreign member' of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, and in 1992 he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Also in 1992 he received an honorary doctorate from the Università degli Studi di Bologna.

Pestman was not only a good researcher, but also a gifted teacher of Papyrology. His Saturday-morning classes, with their thorough and detailed discussion of the contents of Greek papyri, were famous. By posing carefully crafted questions he guided our discussion and study. And he never forgot the larger public: he gave papers for all kinds of audiences, organized lecture series in our Institute and wrote several popular science articles on papyrology.

Pestman's work was characterized by his clear juridical view and thoroughness. His publications met high standards. He was very demanding from his colleagues and his staff, but most of all from himself. He never let illnesses get in the way of his papyrological work, which was, after his family, the most important thing in his life. It must have been terribly hard for him when during the last ten years his weakening health did not allow him to work as long and as much as he had wanted, nor was he able to attend to congresses or conferences anymore. Pestman was an example for all of us, and we in Leiden do our best to keep up, in research as well as in teaching papyrology, the high standards once set by Professor Pestman.