Letter from an Egyptian boy to his father

Many of the 500,000 or so papyri fragments discovered at the end of the nineteenth century contain passages of literary or philosophical works, but most are the stuff of everyday life: shopping lists, tax returns, legal documents, private letters and memoranda. Tattered and fragile, they are clearly of great age, but the concerns they express are immediately recognisable. Occasionally, amongst the mass of business papers, they reveal personal emotions: here, a petulant schoolboy called Theon complains to his father for leaving him behind.



Theon to his father Theon, greetings. A nice thing to do, not taking me with you to the city. If you refuse to take me with you to Alexandria, I shall not write you a letter or speak to you or wish you good health. So: if you go to Alexandria I shall not take your hand or greet you ever again. If you refuse to take me, this is what happens. And my mother said to Archelaos, “He’s upsetting me, take him away!” A nice thing to do, sending me these grand presents, a hill of beans. They put us off the track that day, the 12th, when you sailed. Well then, send for me, I beg you. If you don’t send for me, I shan’t eat, I shan’t drink. There! I pray for your health. [Address] Deliver to Theon from Theonas his son.

[Source: P. Parsons, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish, London, 2007, p. 129]

This Treasure isn’t currently on display in the Weston Library.