From the third to the eighth century CE some historical phenomena can be studied in continuity. Documentary practice is certainly one of these. The basic textual frame of “Barbarian” documents is recognizable as part of a Roman “dis-course.” This fact is fundamental evidence for the derivation of the early medieval documentary practice in the West from the late Roman world. At the same time, however, this fact constitutes the main obstacle to our understanding the process of derivation in all its aspects. This chapter will not follow long-term developments of specific documentary ty-pologies; rather, it is concerned with a mode of written communication connected to a particular need that emerges as a constant in the whole documentary tradition of the period, regardless of questions concerning the longue durée: the need to represent a sequence of “things” within the written records produced for pragmatic purposes by bureaucrats, official scribes, notaries, and individuals.
This chapter attempts to reflect on the possibility of framing significant features in the “practice of writing a list” within the rich transmission of documentary papyri of late Roman and Byzantine Egypt. The aim is to assemble a mini-mal number of critical elements useful for comparative analysis of similar practices attested in the very poor transmis-sion of documentary sources in the late Roman and post-Roman West. This provides a basis for the interpretation of a recently discovered sixth-century Latin documentary papyrus from Italy containing a fragmentary list.