“Don’t say it, if you look upon here,
The little Atthis…
Woe for the muse whose fine gifts she knew—
Her soul went to heaven when she was eight years old.
She left tears and moans of grief for her dear parents
Who, terribly, made her this monument instead of a marriage
When she went down to deep Acheron and Hades’ home,
All their hopes were poured into the fire and ash.”
“Mênodorus and Hêlodôros, the sons of Hêliodôros, greet you
Traveler, beneath me, the words—dear Heliodôros,
Eighteen years old, he had his father’s name.
With him lies his brother on the edge of adulthood,
Mênodorus, who has earned all the pity on Aeida.
Instead of a lovely marriage bed, they get a tomb;
Instead of a bride, a stone, and instead of a wedding, terrible grief for their parents.
I grieve for the pitiable mother who put her hands over their eyes.”
“Paniskos [writes] to my spouse, Ploutogenia, mother of my daughter, many greetings.
Above all, I pray for your good fortune every day from the paternal gods. I want you to know, sister, that we have been staying in Koptos near your sister and her children, so do not feel any annoyance at coming to Koptos, since your relatives are here. And just as you wholly desire to embrace her much and you pray to the gods each day, so too does she long to embrace you with your mother.
As soon as you receive this letter, make ready so that you may come immediately if I send for you. And, when you come, bring with you: ten skins of wool, six jars of olives, four of honey, my shield—only the unused one—and my helmet. Oh, bring my lances too. Bring also all the parts for the tent. If you find the occasion, come here with good people. Have Nonnos come too. Bring all of our clothing when you come. Also bring your golden jewelry when you come, but don’t wear those things openly on the boat.
Greetings to my lady and my daughter Heliodôra. Hermias says hello.
On the other side: “Give this to my wife and my daughter. From their father Paniskos.”
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.
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.
“Isis sends her mother the most greetings. I make a prayer for you each day before lord Sarapis and the gods who are with him.
I want to tell you that I made it safely and well to Alexandria in four days. I send greetings to my sister and her children, and Elouath and his wife, as well as Diokorous and her husband and son and Tamalis and her husband and son, and Hêron and Ammonarion and her children and her husband and Sanpat and her children. If Aiôn wants to join the army, have him come. For everyone is joining the army.
I pray for you and everyone in the house to be well.
“Hermias greets his sister. For the rest of it, I don’t know what I should write to you about—for I have talked myself to exhaustion again and again to you and you do not listen. It is right, when a man notices that he is in rough times, to retreat and not merely fight against what has been allotted him. Even though we are by birth from modest and ill-starred folk, should we not still yield and give some space to ourselves?
At this point, nothing has happened. Even so, if it is sweet to you, have someone come to me, either Gounthos or Ammonios who may remain until I know how my affairs are. Should I be slowed down or even cut off until God should pity us?”