Lead Letter from Myrmekion

 
PIIS032103910002911-5-1
DOI10.31857/S032103910002911-5
Publication type Article
Status Published
Authors
Occupation: Associate Professor
Affiliation: Saint-Petersburg State University
Address: Russian Federation, Saint-Petersburg
Occupation: Head of the sector of the Ancient Department
Affiliation: State Hermitage
Address: Russian Federation, Saint-Petersburg
Occupation: Associate Professor
Affiliation: University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
Address: France, Paris
Journal nameVestnik drevnei istorii
EditionVolume 78 Issue 4
Pages931-948
Abstract

The article presents a unique find from the 2017 excavation season of the Myrmekion expedition: a well-preserved opistograph lead letter. The document was found in an intact layer dating to the second half of the fourth century BC under the southern wall of a Roman era villa (No. 69a). The letter, written on a rectangular lead sheet, was found open (unrolled). Based on orthographic and palaeographic features, the document can be dated to the last quarter of the fourth century BC; a number of orthographic characteristics show a transition from the Ionian dialect to koine. The text is a private business letter, but it begins very unusually for documents of this sort with the acclamation Θεός˙ Τύχη. Next, after a standard greeting formula and health complaints, the sender lists goods for delivery that the addressee has to prepare. The volume of trade is rather small. As no trace of large textile manufacture in Myrmekion has been found, it is possible to assume that the sender specialized in import/export of small consignments of high-quality ceremonial clothes. Mention of the helmsman and the ship shows that the trade was done by sea. After the words of farewell the second letter begins, where the author offers to recipient of the second letter (scriber’s relative or a business partner) the place on the ship to transport salted fish (τάριχος). The existence of salting manufacture in Myrmekion during the Hellenistic period can now be confirmed not only by a large number of fish bone finds but also by the present text. In the beginning of the last line of the letter we clearly read the name of the sender, as if he began to write the third letter, but there is no place for the body of a whole letter. It is possible to assume that the author just intended to say hello to one more person whose (barbarian?) name is irreparably damaged. The published letter illustrates a scene of active economic life in the city, which had recovered from the destruction which had taken place around the middle of the fourth century BC.

Keywordslead letter, Greek epigraphy of Bosporos, koine, Myrmekion, transit trade, τάριχος
Received23.01.2019
Publication date23.01.2019
Number of characters41073
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