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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: Volume 1

Vol. I: A Selection

Sappho: third century

Translated by G & H into four ‘rather literal’ verse stanzas, of which this is the first:

‘Sweet Nereids, grant to me | That home unscathed my brother may return, | And every end, for which his soul shall yearn, | Accomplished see!’

Report of a Public Meeting: late third / early fourth century

Excerpted here is ‘an account of a popular demonstration made in honour of the prytanis at Oxyrhynchus on the occasion of a visit from the praefect’:

‘...when the assembly had met, (the people cried) . . . “the Roman power forever! lords Augusti! prosperous praefect, prosperity to our ruler! Hail, . . . president, glory of the city, ... Dioscorus, chief of the citizens! under you our blessings increase evermore, source of our blessings, . . . Prosperity to the patriot, prosperity to the lover of right! Source of our blessings, founder of the city! ...”...’

LI: Report of a Public Physician: AD 173

‘To Claudianus, strategus [chief magistrate], from Dionysus, son of Apollodorus, son of Dionysius, of Oxyrhynchus, public physician. I was to-day instructed by you, through Heraclides your assistant, to inspect the body of a man who had been found hanged, named Hierax, and to report to you my opinion upon it. I therefore inspected the body in the presence of the aforesaid Heraclides at the house of Epagathus, son of . . . merus, son of Sarapion, in the Broad Street quarter, and found it hanged by a noose, which fact I accordingly report.’

LXIX: Complaint of a Robbery: AD 190

‘. . . they broke down a door that led into the public street and had been blocked up with bricks, probably using a log of wood as a battering-ram. They then entered the house . . .’.

The thieves stole ten artabae — perhaps 30-40 kilos — of barley, which the plaintiff, Nechthenibis, thinks they dragged away using a rope. The petition ends: ‘I, Diogenes son of Apollonius wrote this down for him [the plaintiff], who is illiterate.’

CXXIX: Repudiation of a Betrothal: sixth century

‘. . . eleventh indication. I John, father of Euphemia, my unemancipated daughter, do send this present deed of separation and dissolution to you, Phoebammon, my most honourable son-in-law, by the hand of the most illustrious advocate Anastasius of this city of Oxyrhynchus. It is as follows. Forasmuch as it has come to my ears that you are giving yourself over to lawless deeds, which are pleasing to neither God nor man, and are not fit to be put into writing, I think it well that the engagement between you and her, my daughter Euphemia, should be dissolved, seeing that, as is foresaid, I have heard you are giving yourself over to lawless deeds and that I wish my daughter to lead a peaceful and quiet life. ...’