Exhibitions/ Art Object

Letter in Greek Concerning Purchase of Wool

6th century
Made in Egypt
Black ink on papyrus
9 1/4 x 11 3/4 in. (23.5 x 29.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Papyrus Collection, University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor (P.Mich.inv. 497)
Not on view
Letters, receipts, and other documents written on papyri and ostraka (broken pots and stone fragments) that survive from Egypt provide a vivid picture of commercial activities in the Byzantine and early Islamic era. Together with coins, they prove that trade continued as political authority over the region was transformed.
The letter’s author writes to his brother about a shopping venture that he took alongside Apa Romanos, probably a local monastic leader. On the trip he attempts to purchase wool for a local woman (the lady Patricia) and himself. Since the wool was not ready, the writer puts a future delivery on credit, which he asks his brother
to cover.
Inscription: In Greek, recto: I have taken the liberty of writing to your fraternity for purchase in advance, so that at my request you would purchase in advance a tremis' worth of wool for me and a solidus' worth for the lady Patricia who needs some. I heard her tell Apa Romanos, "Go to Terythis," and I asked her to let me go with him when he goes and she remembered to let me go with Apa Romanos. When he arrived there, we did not find it ready, but they gave us a fixed time for delivery to him on the following day. Since I still need a tremis' worth of wool and they agreed with me to bring me my one tremis' worth also, would your fraternity kindly send me one tremis from there, so that I may not be found wronging the villagers of Terythis. And with God's help, when I come to town I shall render an account to my master. Please receive six melons from the letter carrier without charge. Do not fail to send me a reply. Many greetings to you and obeisance to my brother. Do not be [annoyed?] that I write to you as a brother; the fact is that I write to you as my master. Many greetings to our common sister Theodote, and especially to your lady mother. Send me the little one and take care of . . . ; verso: Deliver to my sweetest brother Philoxenos . . . From his brother Hyakinthos.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.