Letter writing 2: private letter, circa AD 217-8

The back of this letter is exhibited for its unusually elaborate address, written in two panels which perhaps occupied both sides of the ‘spill’ into which the letter had been folded for delivery.

When the letter had been folded, it was tied and then sealed with a clay seal through which the tie would run. For added security, ink marks were then made running across the top of the seal; this is why the names of sender and addressee on letter backs are frequently separated by a large X with its centre missing, that being the point where the seal had been affixed. The ink marks here are clumsy but there seems to be a blank patch as expected. The upper ‘ladder’ may be the remains of lines that were drawn across the tie on the other side of the spill.

The address translates: ‘From Sarapas and Gaia’, and then in the lower panel ‘To Eutyches who distributes wreaths under the gateway of the Serapeum by the great image.’ Added almost as a postscript at upper right: ‘Give (the letter) to Ammonius who distributes wreaths at the shrine of the god, and he will give it to him.’

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol.XLIII 3094

First page / Daily Life