Letter writing 1

Private letters in the Roman period typically have the letter’s text on one side of the papyrus only; the back is kept for the address, typically a single line down the back at right-angles to the text on the front. This was because the practice was to fold the letter into a thin ‘spill’, which would be tied around with a fibre of papyrus and sealed with a small clay seal; the address — typically simply in the form ‘To X from Y’ — would be written down one of the sides left exposed (generally the side with the seal), which are usually much dirtier than the protected inside surfaces. Only rarely are house details given as part of the address. Except for those on government and military service, there was no organised postal service; letter-writers normally would have to rely on delivery by a carrier who knew where to find the addressee. A letter might never reach its destination.

Second page / Daily Life