Holiday Shopping Advice from Claudius Terentianus

As we are right in the fray of holiday shopping season, it’s a great time to consider a few gifts for the people in your life. Why not look to the Roman Empire—a place of great practicality—for inspiration this year?

Claudius Terentianus, an Egyptian who lived in the 1st-2nd century CE and who served in the Roman military in Egypt and Syria, was quite fond of purchasing gifts of the utmost usefulness. As we add things to our shopping carts (either in-person or online) this year, let’s keep in mind some of the gifts Claudius was happy to give. From warm winter clothing to dinnerware, and, yes, even housing for your chickens, there is something here for everyone.

(Be warned—the Latin is very much non-standard)

P. Mich. 8, 467

[m]isi tibi vac. amphoras II olivarum co[lym]bade [un]a et uṇ[a] ṇigrạ…

“I sent you two amphorae of olives, one jar of brined and the other jar of black.”

P. Mich. 8, 468

mịṣị [ti]bi pater…imboluclum concosu[tu]m in quo habes amicla par unu amictoriạ [pa]r unu sabana par unu saccos par unu…sṭṛ[a]glum lini[u]… et [h]abes in imboluclum amictorium sịnglare hunc tibi mater mea misit…

“Father, I sent you a sealed bag in which you have two cloaks, two capes, two towels, two bags, and a linen cover. You also have in the bag a special cloak which my mother sent to you.”

P. Mich. 8, 468

[e]t acc̣ịpiạs caveam gallinaria in qua ha[bes] sunṭhes[  ̣  ̣] vitriae et phialas quinarias p[ar u]nu et calices paria sex et chartas sc[holare]ṣ d[u]ạṣ et in charta atramentum et c̣ạḷamos q̣[u]ị[nq]ụẹ et panes Alexandrinos viginṭi…

“And, you will get a chicken coop in which you have glasses, two quinarius-sized bowls, twelve cups, two writing scrolls, ink (inside the scrolls), five reed pens, and twenty loaves of Alexandrian bread.”

P. Mich. 8, 468

καὶ διὰ…ἄλλο σοι ἀπέσ[τα]λκα.

“And I have sent another (basket).”

(Unfortunately he didn’t mention the contents of the baskets he sent to his sister.)

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