Letter from Apion

The Papyrus letter from Apion (Diessmann 1927: Fig. 32).

The Papyrus letter from Apion (Diessmann 1927: Fig. 32).

Ἀπίων Ἐπιμάχῳ τῶι πατρὶ καὶ
κυρίῳ πλεῖστα χαίρειν. πρὸ μὲν πάν-
των εὔχομαί σε ὑγιαίνειν καὶ διὰ παντὸς
ἐρ<ρ>ωμένον εὐτυχεῖν μετὰ τῆς ἀδελφῆς
μου καὶ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ
μου. εὐχαριστῶ τῷ κυρίῳ Σεράπιδι
ὅτι μου κινδυνεύσαντος εἰς θάλασσαν
ἔσωσε εὐθέως. ὅτε εἰσῆλθον εἰς Μη-
σηνούς, ἔλαβα βιατικὸν παρὰ Καίσαρος
χρυσοῦς τρεῖς. καὶ καλῶς μοί ἐστιν.
ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν, κύριέ μου πατήρ,
γράψον μοι ἐπιστόλιον, πρῶτον
μὲν περὶ τῆς σωτηρίας σου, δεύ-
τερον περὶ τῆς τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου,
τρ[ί]τον ἵνα σου προσκυνήσω τὴν
χέραν, ὅτι με ἐπαίδευσας καλῶς
καὶ ἐκ τούτου ἐλπίζω ταχὺ προκό-
σαι τῶν θεῶν θελόντων. ἄσπασαι
Καπίτων[α π]ολλὰ καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφούς
[μ]ου καὶ Σε[ρηνί]λλαν καὶ το[ὺς] φίλους μο[υ].
ἔπεμψά σο[ι εἰ]κόνιν μ[ου] διὰ Εὐκτή-
μονος. ἔσ[τ]ι [δέ] μου ὄνομα Ἀντώνις Μά-
ξιμος. ἐρρῶσθαί σε εὔχομαι.
κεντυρί(α) Ἀθηνονίκη. (On left margin)
ἀσπάζεταί σε Σερῆνος ὁ τοῦ Ἀγαθοῦ Δαίμονος [καὶ . . . .]ς ὁ τοῦ [ . . . -]
ρος καὶ Τούρβων ὁ τοῦ Γαλλωνίου καὶ Δ[. . .]νᾶς ὁ τ[οῦ . . . . . .]σεν[. . .
. . . .] . [. . .] . [Verso:
ε[ἰς] Φ[ιλ]αδέλφιαν Ἐπιμάχῳ ἀπὸ Ἀπίωνος υἱοῦ. (Added below)
ἀπόδος εἰς χώρτην πρῖμαν Ἀπαμηνῶν᾿ Ιο[υλι]α[ν]οῦ ἀντ[ι-]
λιβλαρίῳ ἀπὸ Ἀπίωνος ὥστε Ἐπιμάχῳ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.

 

Apion to Epimachus, his father and lord, very many greetings. Before all else I pray for your health and that you may always be well and prosperous, together with my sister and her daughter and my brother. I thank the lord Serapis that when I was in danger at sea he straightway saved me. On arriving at Misenum I received from Caesar three gold pieces for travelling expenses. And it is well with me. Now I ask you, my lord and father, write me a letter, telling me first of your welfare, secondly of my brother’s and sister’s, and enabling me thirdly to make obeisance before your handwriting, because you educated me well and I hope thereby to have quick advancement, if the gods so will. Give many salutations to Capiton and my brother and sister and Serenilla and my friends. I have sent you by Euctemon a portrait of myself. My name is Antonius Maximus, my company the Athenonica. I pray for your health. (Postscript) Serenus son of Agathodaemon salutes you, and . . ., and Turbo son of Gallonius, and . . . (Addressed) To Philadelphia, to Epimachus from Apion his son. (Additional address) Deliver at the camp of the first cohort of the Apameni to Julianus, vice-secretary, this letter from Apion to be forwarded to his father Epimachus. (Translation: Hunt & Edgar 1932: no. 112)

 

Apion is a young man from Egypt, newly enlisted in the Roman fleet. He has just arrived at the headquarters of the fleet stationed in Misenum on the fringe of the bay of Naples and is writing home to his father in Philadelphia in Egypt. For us today, the letter is full of important information about marine recruits and their families.

Apion wants to assure his relatives of his safe arrival despite of dangers during his passage. Consequently he gives thanks to the god Serapis. Of the relatives at home, he begs to be reassured of the good health of the father as well as his brother and sister. He goes on to praise the education the father has provided for him, because he is convinced it will secure him advancement. The advancement he is aiming for could be a cosy desk job, since literate soldiers could be enrolled as scribes and adjutants for officers, relieving them from some of the arduous tasks of the regular grunts.

He goes on by sending all his best regards to family and friends at home. He has also taken the trouble of having a portrait made, which he is sending separately by someone called Euctemon.

Apion finishes his letter by informing his father that he is now called Antonius Maximus, and that he is serving in a unit called Athenonica. The marines serving in the Roman fleets came from different corners of the empire and had (at least to the Romans on the Italian peninsula) strange unpractical foreign names. Consequently, when the newly enlisted marines received their postings they were also given Roman sounding names. In the fleets the name of the unit is in fact the name of the ship on which Apion served. The two pieces of information are extremely important as they were needed for the father to be able to write back to Apion. As it is clear from the address written on the back of the letter, it reached his father’s hand via despatches to military units.

That Apion was not entirely alone in a new world can be seen in the margin of the papyrus letter where a number of other men send their regards back to Philadelphia. These are likely to be new recruits who enlisted in the fleet alongside Apion.

 

About the object:

From: Philadelphia, Fayum, Egypt.
Date: 100-200 CE.
Material: Papyrus.
Measurements: h: 22,5, cm; w: 14 cm.
Repository: Berlin. For a wonderful high resolution image of the papyrus follow this link.
Reference: BGU II: no. 423; Diessmann 1927: 179-183; Hunt & Edgar 1932: 112; White 1986: no. 103; Klauck 2006: 9-14; Zeiner-Carmichael 2014: no. 210; a possible 2nd letter from Apion.