“Gasteis and Adeimantos
The children of Khorêgiôn, hail!
Before, when I was alive I Gasteis was living a sweet life,
Leaving behind two children with my spouse.
But now my dear brother follows me to Hades’ home
Leaving a reverent daughter as a possession to his wife.
In imitating the deeds of the wondrous men of our country,
We have both obtained Hades’ pain.”
“Pitiless god, why did you show me the light
Only for a brief number of few years?
Is it because you wanted to afflict my poor mother
With tears and laments through my short life?
She bore me and raised me and paid much more
Mind to my education than my father.
For he left me as a small orphan in this home
While she endured every kind of labor for me.
It would have been dear for me to have had success
Before our respected leaders with speeches in the law courts.
But the adolescent bloom of lovely youth did not
Reach my face. There was no marriage, no torches.
She did not sing the famous marriage song for me,
And the ill-fated woman never saw a child, a remnant
Of our much-lamented family. And it hurts me even when dead
My mother Polittê’s still growing grief
In her mourning thoughts over Phronto, the child she bore
Swift-fated, the empty pride of a dear country.
B. “Pôlittê, endure your grief, rein in your tears.
Many mothers have seen dead sons.
But they were not like him in their ways and life,
They were not so reverent toward their mother’s sweet face.
But why mourn so uselessly? Why weep without purpose?
All mortals will go to Hades in common.”
“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.