Skip to comments.Ancient Egyptian Soldier's Letter Home Deciphered
Posted on 03/07/2014 12:05:46 PM PST by Red Badger
A newly deciphered letter home dating back around 1,800 years reveals the pleas of a young Egyptian soldier named Aurelius Polion who was serving, probably as a volunteer, in a Roman legion in Europe.
In the letter, written mainly in Greek, Polion tells his family that he is desperate to hear from them and that he is going to request leave to make the long journey home to see them.
Addressed to his mother (a bread seller), sister and brother, part of it reads: "I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind," it reads. [In Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire]
"I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you ..." (Part of the letter hasn't survived.)
Polion says he has written six letters to his family without response, suggesting some sort of family tensions.
"While away in Pannonia I sent (letters) to you, but you treat me so as a stranger," he writes. "I shall obtain leave from the consular (commander), and I shall come to you so that you may know that I am your brother "
Found in an ancient Egyptian town
The letter was found outside a temple in the Egyptian town of Tebtunis more than a century ago by an archaeological expedition led by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt. They found numerous papyri in the town and did not have time to translate all of them.
(Excerpt) Read more at livescience.com ...
Dating back about 1,800 years, this letter was written, mainly in Greek, by Aurelius Polion, an Egyptian man who served with the legio II Adiutrix legion around modern-day Hungary. In the letter, discovered more than a century ago in the Egyptian town of Tebunis and only recently translated, Polion pleads with his family to respond. Credit: Image courtesy Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley
The back of the letter contains instructions for the carrier to deliver it to a military veteran whose name may have been Acutius Leon who could forward it to Polion's family. Although the Roman Empire had a military postal system, Polion appears not to have used it, entrusting the veteran instead. Credit: Image courtesy Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley
Seen that article the other day, didn’t think anyone would be interested in it but me. Thanks for posting it.
Touching and very sad. Not a native Egyptian but one of the descendants of Alexander’s army that conquered Egypt.
Love is so overrated... even 1800 years ago.
Poor guy. You have to wonder what was going on. Since his letter survived, he probably was very loved by someone.
I don’t think so. The article calls him an Egyptian soldier, but he wrote in Greek, and was serving in the Roman army. 1800 years ago woul put this letter around the year 214 AD, well into the Christian era. He was apparently Greek and serving overseas..................
Pannonia largely corresponds to what today called Hungary. This was in the 3rd Century, a time of crisis for the Roman Empire. It isn’t surprising it was not a happy time for people alive then.
And this guy is homesick serving far from his land and every one he knew. Human nature hasn’t changed since then.
...and the Postal Service has only just delivered it. :-)
It sounds like it could have been written yesterday................things haven’t changed for military serving overseas in 1800 years..................
“Since his letter survived, he probably was very loved by someone.”
Either that or they wrapped the cat’s mummy with it.
It never made it out of Egypt.................
Thanks for posting.
Especially relevant to me due to recently educating self about the pyramids, sphinx, and generally lots of archeology and the antiquities.
I see what you did there............
Rome did not become Christian until a century later. He believes in the gods but he does not feel confident the situation was going to improve. On the eastern frontier, things were tense with the barbarians menacing it.
What it really is all about is that people haven’t changed in two millenia................
Being in Egypt, he would have met Coptic Christians, I’m sure...................They are still there...................
Maybe he should have tried the military postal service instead.
I wonder who the first soldier was to get a Dear John letter from his girl back home.Dear Aurilious, it has been so long since we have been together and Joesephus has asked me to marry him so many times that I finally had to say yes. I hope you find some nice Roman girl and have lots of chidren. P.S.If you don’t need the sandals I sent you last year since your last letter said you were up to your knees in snow, please return them. It is as you know very warm here.
Overrated. Biochemically no different than eating large quantities of chocolate.
Lots of Greeks in Egypt after Alexander. Cleopatra of the Ptolemys was the most famous.
A soldier’s lot hasn’t changed much down through the ages, does it?
Perhaps a bit less fattening...
Sheeesh! And I thought my grandfather’s WW II V-Mails were hard to read!
From the article, near the end:
“He may have volunteered and left Egypt without knowing where he would be assigned,” writes Adamson in the journal article. According to the translation, Polion sent the letter to a military veteran who could forward it to his family.
I felt the same way when I was in........................a little while later................
That’s why the French Foreign Legion says people join to forget..........................
I reads :
“. Although the Roman Empire had a military postal system, Polion appears not to have used it, entrusting the veteran instead.”
According to Post #7:
Pannonia largely corresponds to what today called Hungary.
So, he was a Hungarian. Greek must have been the lingua franca of the day...............
Six letters previous went unanswered, the eistent postal system wasn’t working. So he thought that by sending the letter with a veteran, perhaps going home on leave or retiring, he could be more likely for it to reach home. I guess it didn’t...............
How very topical. Plus ca change !
I knew somebody would spot it. Good job.
Probably complaining about the MRE’s...
“Greek must have been the lingua franca of the day...............”
The language of trade in the Eastern Med was “Koine” (sp?) which was a form of Greek. Basically the language of commerce that followed the path of Alexander’s Armies.
It was indeed; Greek was then more widely spoken than even Latin, especially in the Middle East. The Septuagint was the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek before the time of Christ, and his apostles chose it as the lingua franca to spread the Gospel message to non-Jews in the region.
Pannonia corresponds roughly to western Hungary plus a bit of eastern Austria, eastern Slovenia, and eastern Croatia.
Greek was widely used in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Paul was able to travel from city to city in Asia Minor and speak to the locals in Greek. There were a lot of Greek-speakers in Egypt, both in Alexandria and in some cities elsewhere in Egypt.
My detailer guaranteed me duty on the French Riviera if I re-upped and here I am up to my butt in mud in this godforsaken place...
Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh,
Here I am at Camp Gaul
Camp is very entertaining
and they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.
I went hiking with Cassius
He developed poison ivy
You remember Brutas
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.
All the soldiers hate the slaves
And the lake has alligators
And the head Roman soldier wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.
Now I don’t want this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Augustas
They’re about to organize a searching party.
Take me home, oh muddah fadduh, take me home, I hate Gaul
Don’t leave me out in the forest where I might get eaten by a bear.
Take me home, I promise I will not make noise or mess the house with other boys, oh please don’t make me stay, I’ve been here one whole day.
Dearest fadduh, darling muddah,
How’s my precious little bruddah?
Let me come home if ya miss me
I will even let Aunt Agrippina hug and kiss me.
Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing,
Playing Harpustum gee that’s better,
Muddah Fadduh please disregard this letter.
“Dear Dad,” read the young soldier’s first letter home. “I cannot tell you where I am, but yesterday I shot a polar bear...”
Several months later came another letter: “Dear Dad, I still cannot tell you where I am, but yesterday I danced with a hula girl...”
Two weeks later came yet another note: “Dear Dad, I still cannot tell you where I am, but yesterday the doctor told me I should have danced with the polar bear and shot the hula girl...”
Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy to actually speak Egyptian. Can you imagine running an country and not speaking the native tongue. We cannot even imagine life in Egypt.
Hope this letter finds you as it leaves me, in the pink.
The trenches are cushy enough except when it rains,
although there is a rumor that the British Fleet may
come to our rescue, even the cooties wear lifebelts.
Send me anything but bully beef, or plum Jam.
thanks your son.
1st century Rome had Christians. Nero enjoyed killing them. Rome didn’t have to be Christian to have them.
With Nero the persecution of the Christians was more about having a convenient scapegoat than any concern for theology. Now Diocletian genuinely hated Christianity. Most of the persecutions in between were not based on the fact that Christians worshipped Christ or His Father (the Romans couldn’t have cared much) but on the fact that Christians did *NOT* make sacrifices to the gods and the Emperor.
Not sacrificing to to Emperor and Roman gods was considered treason, risking the wrath of the gods on the entire population. Professing Christ wasn’t the issue.
The Jews had a special place as the Romans let them make offerings to their God *for* the emperor and Empire (the Jews originally came into the Roman sphere as allies and the Romans respected that which was OLD, and Judiasm was old.)- that’s why the question of if followers of Christ were Jews or not was so important- if they were Jews then they did not have to sacrifice, if they claimed to not be Jews and still did not sacrifice then they were traitors and were dealt with thusly.
Biochemically no different than eating large quantities of chocolate.
That would be equivalent to the feeling of sexual attraction. But a love between a man and a woman that has endured for decades is much sturdier treasure.
As for my love for my children and my grandchildren and for my siblings, also wealth beyond measure.
Just amazing. Thanks.