XVIII 13867 Provenance unknown, mid-second century

By Serapis! You, the man who reads this letter, whoever you are, expend a little effort and translate for the women the matters written down in this letter and communicate it to them.

Ptolemaios to Zosime his mother and Rhodous his sister, greetings. You all blame me through letters and through messengers as though I have done wrong, so I swear by all the gods that I have done nothing of the matters mentioned, except only with regard to the donkey of Karas. You all seem
to set up an ambush against me, and if you have some anger because, although I heard, I still sent no word -well, I was kicked by a horse and was in danger of losing my foot, or even my life. But I blame you all because you did not make inquiry after me, neither through messages nor through letters.

If the gods are willing, it would be well ...but I also detained him and he enjoyed himself night and day for four days. On the next day, when there was no longer anything to drink, he stood by me, asking, 'Do you want a pound of meat to be purchased for you?' I said, 'Yes', and immediately gave him two four-obol coins for the pound of meat. After he took my two four-obols, he neither brought back the meat nor my money, nor have I seen him up to now. Well, I am writing to you not because of the money, but for the sake of his opinion of my sister. But I restrained her from mentioning to him about the money he owed her, because of my respect for you all. By the gods, I was very disturbed to hear how far the matter of a small bit of copper has been carried. But Rhodous ... I was disturbed that you did not come up for the twenty-fifth of the god. Anyway, I do urge you to come up for the seventieth of the god -to come to me, just as if to your own, for the same warm feelings remain. Advise the old lady to come up too. With regard to the letter you sent me, I did not receive it and I said the following: 'By Serapis, I do not have it, for I am no fool: ... She ...ing and watching sometimes, where I straightway was going to recommend my own opinion, for she is absolutely without any sense. Because you stayed away from me, for four days I was in agony, lest she were ill, or she suffered something else, at which point I sent my sister with Karas as my pretext. Once I learned about her safety, I revealed everything. Ammonios her brother said to my sister that she went away. When I heard that she was gone, I became oveJjoyed because she was neither sick, nor was anything troubling her. But I am annoyed that she didn't say good-bye to me, but went off without me. But, there is nothing odd about their lack of sense. For my part, I kept wanting to send the entire matter to you. I pray you are well. Greet Tapsois and her mother Isarous.


Rowlandson, Jane, ed. 1998. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt. Cambridge.
Questions: 1) The first name mentioned in the document is Serapis. Is this a God?
2) It is indicated in the first sentence that the mother and sister are illiterate. The writer says that they have blamed him in messages and letters. Is it a sign of nobility when women have men around to 3) Is the reference to the donkey at Karas the writer's way of admitting to theft? If not, what else could be the significance of the donkey?
4) The writer refers to the twenty-fifth of the god and the seventieth of the god as if they are dates. What is the significance of this phrasing?
5) The first paragraph seems as if the writer finds it of the utmost importance to clear his name. He does not ask about the health of any of his family members in the opening of the letter. What does this say about the relationship between the family and the son?
6) How much are two four long obol coins worth in USD?

AKS: Very good questions (and yes to the question about Serapis.) General books about Roman Egypt (see Bagnall) will help here, as will discussions of women's literacy - see the Rowlandson book and R. Cribiore; you'll also want to investigate the Egyptian calendar.

My document analysis can be found using the following link:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tuh4ER29T7PYZbJM_CcS4UVmVXgyoV-3SLg8NfbB_Xc/edit?hl=en&authkey=CIvAhP8J


I really appreciated your analysis on Serapis - I think it might be interesting to see if you can draw any conclusions about the author of this letter based on his choice of God to reference. Which people in the empire worshipped which Gods? Was it purely a geographical distinction, or does it have to do with class? What are the people who reference Serapis like? Or was Serapis in general referenced in letters such as this?

- Matt Serna

I thought that the wii as a whole was presented very well with the answers to the questions, the charts, and. One thing that I noticed though was that the document is simply is a son's letter to his mom. I felt that the analysis consisted more of a summary of the document rather than an analysis. You mention that this document is about the relationship between a son and his mother and I think that is a point that you could continue to discuss in the analysis.

I really enjoyed looking at the visuals, especially for the currency, as it was a descriptive way of looking into specifics in the letter. I would be interested to see more of the family dynamic section of the letter- we had studied a bit of the pater potestas, and some relationships, but perhaps it could be expanded here where family interactions are at the forefront of your document. - Taylor Goodspeed

I agree with what has already been said. I thought your research was great and I was particularly impressed by the coins and the analysis about their worth in modern terms. I think though that one of the main points of this document is to capture that family dynamic between a son and his mother. I also found it interesting how the document needed to be translated by someone to be read to the mother, yet the son had recieved messages from his mom and sister apparently blaming him for the bad things he has done. It might be interesting to research how messages and letters were sent between family members if some were illiterate and others weren't. - Brian Guymon

I agree with your classmates. It was great to see you delving into ancient numismatics and nice to see pictures of coins, but maybe it would have better not to get too sidetracked by that and spend more time instead on social question such as family relationships and languages and literacy. You do have a useful discussion about inheritance though. Good work! - James Kierstead