Papyri in the Beinecke

The ‘just-graduated-2018’ Classics major, Eli Westerman, will spend part of this summer readying for publication a papyrus in the Beinecke Library (P.CtYBR inv. 1020a), the mutilated remains of a private (continued) letter sent to a friend, most likely at some point in the second century CE. The writer of the letter opens his missive with good wishes for his friend and his friend’s entire household. His friend’s name was lost when the first line of the letter disappeared. Then he tells his friend he has received the fishes he sent to him, and he goes on to encourage his friend, ‘don’t trouble yourself if X should happen’ (we do not know what X might be, as the letter breaks off in the middle of the fifth line. μὴ οὖν ϲεαυτῷ | ἐπιβαρεῖ· ἐὰν δὲ [ “Don’t be hard on yourself if X should happen …’.

The letter, although only a portion is preserved, is conspicuous for the sophistication of the writer’s vocabulary and the meticulousness of his orthography. By the Roman period, when this letter was composed, it is somewhat unusual to find an example of ‘everyday’ writing so free from the common slips of itacism and other orthographic blemishes that ordinary people tend to make.