A Contract for a Slave Purchase

For more non-elite Latin, go to the list here.

AE 1922, 0135. 151 (CE, Fayoum, Egypt)

This is a contract written on a wax tablet for the sale of a Marmarian slave girl to Titus Memmius Montanus, a sailor in the praetorian fleet stationed at Ravenna. The girl is described as ‘veteranae’ (βετρανε), meaning she has been enslaved for some time. We don’t know what happened to her after this moment, but, as this contract was found in Egypt, there is good reason to believe that Titus Memmius was there at some point.

The writer of the contract was likely a native Greek speaker who was unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet, employing Greek morphology (nominative -ος, , genitive -ου/-ης, accusative -ους, etc.), phonetic tendencies (-αρουν for -arum), and vocabulary (πεντηρω) in an otherwise formulaic document. It also displays several spellings reflective of Latin speech, such as the merging of /b/ and /w/ to /β/, and the monophthongization of /ae/ to /ɛ/.

For more on the language, see Adams (2003) Bilingualism and the Latin Language.

BC 1
Enslaved captives. (image: The History Project)

ΓΑΙΩ ΚΟΥΡΤΙΩ ΙΟΥΣΤΩ ΙΟΥΛΙΩ ΝΑΥΤΩΝΕ
ΚΩΝΣΟΥΛΙΒΟΥΣ ΣΕΞΣΤΟΥΜ ΝΩΝΑΣ ΟΚΤΩΒΡΗΣ
ΑΙΣΧΙΝΗΣ ΑΙΣΧΙΝΟΥ ΦΛΑΟΥΙΑΝΟΣ ΜΙΛΗΣΙΟΣ ΣΚΡΙ
ΨΙ ΜΗ ΑΚΚΕΠΙΣΣΕ Α ΤΙΤΩ ΜΕΜΜΙΩ ΜΟΝΤΑΝΩ
ΜΙΛΙΤΕ ΠΕΝΤΗΡΩ ΑΥΓΙΣΤΙ ΔΗΝΑΡΙΟΥΣ ΣΕΣΚΕΝ
ΤΟΥΣ ΒΙΓΕΝΤΙ ΚΙΝΚΥΕ ΠΡΕΤΙΟΥΜ ΠΟΥΕΛΛΑΙ ΜΑΡ
ΜΑΡΙΑΙ ΒΕΤΡΑΝΕ ΚΟΥΑΜ ΕΙ ΔΟΥΠΛΑ ΟΠΤΙΜΙΣ ΚΟΝ
ΔΙΚΙΩΝΙΒΟΥΣ ΒΕΝΔΙΔΙΤ ΕΤ ΤΡΑΔΙΔΙ ΕΞ ΕΝΤΕΡΡΟ
ΓΑΤΙΩΝΕ ΦΑΚΤΑ ΤΑΒΕΛΛΑΡΟΥΝ ΣΙΓΝΑΤΑΡΟΥΜ
ΑΚΤΟΥΜ ΚΑΣΤΡΙΣ ΚΛΑΣΣΗΣ ΠΡΑΙΤΩΡΙΑΙ ΡΑΒΕΝ
ΝΑΤΟΥΣ

IDEM COSVLVBVS AEADEM DIEM DOMITIVS THE
OPHILVS SCRISI ME IN VEDITIONEM PVELLAE MARMA
RIAE SVPRA SCRIPTAE PRO AESCINE AESCINE PHI
LIVM FLAVIANVM SECVNDVM AVCTOREM EX
STITISE [ ]
[ ] ACCTVM

Γαιω Κουρτιω Ιουστω Ιουλιω Ναυτωνε / κωνσουλιβους σεξστουμ νωνας οκτωβρης / Αισχινης Αισχινου Φλαουιανος Μιλησιος σκρι/ψι μη ακκεπισσε α Τιτω Μεμμιω Μοντανω / μιλιτε πεντηρω Αυγιστι δηναριους σεσκεν/τους βιγεντι κινκυε πρετιουμ πουελλαι Μαρ/μαριαι βετρανε κουαμ ει δουπλα οπτιμισ κον/δικιωνιβους βενδιδιτ ετ τραδιδι εξ εντερρο/γατιωνε φακτα ταβελλαρουν σιγναταρουμ / ακτουμ καστρις κλασσης πραιτωριαι Ραβεν/νατους

Idem cosulubus aeadem diem Domitius The/ophilus scrisi me in veditionem puellae Marma/riae supra scriptae pro Aescine Aescine phi/lium Flavianum secundum auctorem ex/stitise acctum

“In the consulships of Gaius Curtius Iustus and Julius Nauto (151 CE), October 2nd. I, Aeschines Flavianus, a Milesian, son of Aeschines, wrote that I received from Titus Memmius Montanus, soldier on the quinquireme Augustus, 625 denarii as the price of the Marmarian girl, a long-serving (‘veteran’) slave, whom I sold to him at double repayment (i.e. on default) under the best terms and handed over after the finished inspection of the signed tablets. Completed at the camp of the praetorian fleet at Ravenna.

In the same consulships and on the same day, I, Domitius Theophilus, wrote that I was present as a witness on behalf of Aeschines Flavianus, son of Aeschines, for the sale of the Marmarian girl, described above. Completed.”

Should anyone else want to use this in a Latin class (I’m incorporating it into a course reading), I’ve adapted a somewhat standardized version in the Latin alphabet:

Gaio Curtio Iusto (et) Iulio Nautone consulibus, sextum nonas Octobres, Aeschines Aeschinae (filius) Flavianus Milesius scripsi me accepisse a Tito Memmio Montano, milite quinquiremis Augusti, denarios sescentos viginti quinque pretium puellae Marmariae veteranae, quam ei dupla optimis condicionibus vendidit (vendidi) et tradidi ex interrogatione facta tabellarum signatarum, actum castris classis praetoriae Ravennae.

Idem consulibus eadem die, Domitius Theophilus scripsi me in venditione puellae Marmariae, supra scriptae, pro Aeschine Aeschinae filio Flaviano secundum auctorem exstitisse. Actum.

Roman Slave Collar
Roman slave collar (image: University of Colorado-Boulder)

One thought on “A Contract for a Slave Purchase

  1. Pingback: News Roundup Newsletter // May 05 | Mundus Patet

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