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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: Introduction

Private letter (?) about One-eyed Astrologer: Third/fourth century

A tantalising fragment of a letter (or quotation of one) which alludes to the activities of a ‘one-eyed’ astrologer, as though part of a plot of a novel. The hand, however, which is informal and documentary, is not the sort expected for a literary text. The author refers to the arrival ‘up there’ (ano) of one ‘Serenilla’, which sounds like an event of everyday life, and to a festival. Another event is dated by the narrator by the rise of the Dog-star, which presaged the rise of the Nile flood and was therefore important in the Egyptian calendar and religion.

‘. . . I withdrew and went to sleep, and I sent the astrologer — the one-eyed one (monophthalmon) — to call you and he said that he could not find you. At lamp-lighting I returned and when I heard from Serenilla the things that you had done to her I was upset that you behaved in a way unworthy of you. So receive her kindly up there before the (end of the?) festival. And I would have been there already had I not been ‘dog-devoured’ (kunobrotos, i.e. bitten by a dog?) on the very day of the rise of the Dog star, the 25th, by a mad dog, and until now I . . . terribly . . .’.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol. LXI no. 4126