Letters from the Zenon Archive

(3)   undated letters

Many letters from the Zenon Archive are already available in translation via Some more translations have been collected here. They include documents in letter format, such as petitions and declarations, as well as private letters.

← Previous years (255-239 B.C.)


Greek text:   PCairZen_59451
Date:   247-240 B.C.
Translated by:   J.Muir, 'Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World', pp. 63-64

To Zenon, greetings from the temple slaves at Boubastis who feed the cats. The king acted properly in giving our profession exemption from compulsory work throughout the land, and so did Apollonios too; we are from Sophthis. Leontiskos, forcing us to go, sent us to the harvest, and, so that we should not bother you, we finished the work given to us. But now for the second time Leontiskos has sent us out to make bricks - there are two of us. He is just looking after the brick-makers in Sophthis, Amerōis and Bēsas, who should be doing this work - for his own advantage. Would you oblige us by proceeding to follow the instructions of the king and Apollonios, his finance minister. Apart from you we have no-one to complain to. Farewell.


Greek text:   PLond_7.2052
Date:   245-240 B.C.
Translated by: S.R.Llewelyn, 'New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity', vol. 8, p. 17

Memorandum to Zenon from Sosikrates concerning those {slaves} formerly belonging to Apollonios, the ex-dioiketes, but now belonging to Paideas. If anyone encounters them, let him arrest them and write to us.

Pindaros, Lycian, about 29 years of age, medium height, honey-complexion, with meeting eyebrows, hook-nosed, scar under left knee.

Philonides, who is called Beltenouris, about 24 years of age, medium height, honey-complexion, scar on left eyebrow and under lip on right.

And those belonging to Alexandros who was a hostage:

Philinos, Babylonian, shampooer, about 44 years of age, short, black-skinned, hook-nosed, with meeting eyebrows, having a mole on the left temple.

Amyntas, Mede, coachman, about 34 years of age, medium height, black-skinned, scar to forehead and nose.

FROM KRITON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59462
Date:   245-240 B.C.
Translated by: A.C. Smith

The oaths date this letter to the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes.

Kriton to Zenon greeting. You would do well to show some regard for me, so that I am not ruined for a still longer time; for having [agreed] with me to manage (?) until the twentieth day, he has done nothing, but while I was sleeping in the field, he drove the sow, which is pregnant, out of the courtyard by night and called out my wife, saying that he would hamstring the sow, and he yelled at me, thinking that that I was sleeping inside. When I came back from the field, my wife told me everything that had happened. I have not informed anyone of any of this, until the days that he requested have passed; and I have no longer brought the sow out into the courtyard. Therefore I beg you, by the Brother gods and by the king, to settle this matter of mine, so that I am not subjected to drunken insults for a still longer time. And I swear to you by the genius of the king and by queen Berenike - so that you may not think that I charge him wantonly - that I have not received even one brick from him. You then should take care concerning this matter. Farewell.

{Addressed}   To Zenon.

FROM THEON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59852
Date:   243-239 B.C.
Translated by: A.C. Smith

This letter has been reassembled from three fragments:   P.Cair. Zen. 59447, PSI 680 and C.Pap. Hengstl 105.

Theon, who was recommended by the late Epharmostos, to Zenon, greeting. In other respects I am grateful for all the consideration that I have received from you, but I beg you, if I seem to you to be asking what is reasonable, to appoint me to some task, so that I may provide a service to you by blamelessly performing what I have been told to do; in this way I will be more justified in receiving what is given by you, and you will give more gladly if I do something more for you. If you tell me to stay still for the time being, you yourself will know the right time, but you will do well for me by arranging that it should be shown to me with whom I should share a house and the other things I need, in order that I should not be troubled in my old age. For I do not have anyone else on whom it is fitting for me to rely, since I was originally recommended to you.


Greek text:   PCairZen_59300
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: J.Kloppenborg, 'The Tenants in the Vineyard', p. 398

Euempelos to Zenon, greetings. After the farmers of the district had seeded the vineyards {with vegetables} for the 25th year {sic} I asked Herakleides to give me an assistant to make the rounds of inspection, so that I could register the cucumbers that had been planted and the gourds and the shallots and anything else, so that they can pay the one-half rent after the valuation, just as happened before. Herakleides gave me an assistant and asked him to do his job well. Although none of the other tenants objected, Apollonides said that he would not allow me to come into his vineyard. Knowing how crazy he is and that he would hinder me, I ordered the assistant to be present when I made my rounds.

Now Apollonides is really playing the fool. For if, as you once said, the money from farming out a 100 arourai vineyard to various tenants had been collected, he would not now be such a fool. For while I farmed out not even 5 arourai belonging to Python for 20 drachmas and 7 arourai belonging to Neoptolemos for at most 41 drachmas and did this by auction with Anosis' help (as you had ordered), Apollonides, without the assistance of anyone, not even Anosis, said that by going to anyone he wanted and making an agreement on his own with them he had negotiated 50 drachmas; he did not even keep back the new grapes for the Isieia, telling them all (?) to take as much as they wanted of what belongs to you.

But concerning the other matters, you yourself will investigate when you come. No one is preparing the wine vats nor are they building new ones and harvest time is near. For last year we began to gather the grapes on Pachons 28; but they are not even ready to catch mice. Thus unless you come in a hurry and start giving orders in regard to all these matters, by spending the time on other matters you will lose a great deal. Year 25 {sic}, Pachons 2.

{Addressed}   To Zenon.

{Docketed}   Year 36, Pachons 6. Euempelos, concerning the harvest.


Greek text:   PCairZen_59519
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: C.C.Edgar, ASAE vol.23, no. 87

In this short letter we have another picture of a sitometrēs in trouble. Phaneisis , though he writes Greek with perfect fluency, was an Egyptian from up the river and knew nobody in Alexandria except Zenon. Evidently he had not come down for a holiday, but to appear before Dionysodoros and explain some fault in his accounts . Dionysodoros was the chief accountant of Finance , a person of great authority.

Phaneisis the corn-measurer to Zenon greeting. It is now three days since Dionysodoros saw me and ordered me to be taken to prison. Will you kindly then send one of your people to me along with the messenger who hands you this letter, because I have no friend in the city, and send me a cloak or some money, as much as you please , to serve until one of my folk sails down. Farewell.


Greek text:   PCairZen_59467
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: C.C.Edgar, ASAE vol.24, no. 106

The text is interesting for the light it throws on the methods of the beekeepers. At the honey-making season the bee-keepers were accustomed to carry the bees to their feeding-grounds in portable hives. It appears that the donkeys belonged to the bee-keepers , and though Zenon used them rather freely ( many donkeys being required at this season for the transport of wine-jars) , it is to be presumed that he paid for their hire .

To Zenon greeting from the bee-keepers of the Arsinoite nome. You wrote about the donkeys , that they were to come to Philadelphia and work ten days. But it is now eighteen days that they have been working and the hives have been left in the fields , and it is time to bring them home and we have no donkeys to carry them back. Now it is no small impost that we pay the king. Unless then the donkeys are sent at once , the result will be that the hives will be ruined and the impost lost. Already the peasants are warning us , saying : "We are going to release the water and burn the brushwood. So unless you remove them , you will lose them." We beg you then , if it please you , to send us our donkeys , in order that we may remove them, and after removing them we will come back with the donkeys when you need them . May you prosper .


Greek text:   PCairZen_59475
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translation at:   by J. Bauschatz

FROM PAIS TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59484
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by:   W.Clarysse & K.Geens, 'Textiles and Architecture in Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Egypt' ( PDF )

Memorandum from the carpet-weaver Pais to Zenon. Concerning the complaints I lodged concerning Nechtembes the carpet-weaver, who is a a constant troublemaker, it is now clear in truth that he has embezzled from the two-sided carpets {amphitapoi}. The carpet which was weighed yesterday was still wet and was too light by six minas. And he perpetrated things that were even more wicked. If you want to investigate about these, it is right to cut off his hands. For he made the length of the two-sided carpets too short by one cubit and the width by two palms, so that they do not fit the bed. And when they started to weigh the two-sided carpets, he put also his warp on the scales. It is not right to be like that. Besides such activities he also corrupts the other carpet-weavers. If you agree to let me give the samples to them, I will give you two extra carpets for every fourteen carpets. When he realized that he would be convicted by me, he wanted to run away yesterday. But I had him arrested and he is taken to the prison. I have made this clear to you so that nobody will defraud you and I will receive your attention. May you prosper.


Greek text:   PCairZen_59509
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translation at:   by J. Bauschatz


Greek text:   PLond_2026
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: N.Lewis, 'Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt', p. 16

Asklepiades to Zenon greeting. Philon, who will hand you this letter, has been known to me for some time. He is sailing up the Nile with a view to being employed in one or another department under Philiskos {an official in the nome}. Please, then, get to know him, and introduce him to other men of standing; assist him both for my sake and for the young man himself - he is deserving of your special consideration, as will be evident to you too if you receive him into your hands. Farewell.


Greek text:   PLond_2027
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: N.Lewis, 'Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt', p. 25

Asklepiades to Zenon greeting. Erasis, who will hand you this letter, happens to be a relative and friend of mine. He brings with him his newphew Erilochos, a candidate for a land assignment. Please, then, take care of the gentlemen, see that they obtain a suitable billet - preferably in Philadelphia, so as to be near to you, but at all events somewhere appropriate - and that in the land measurement they are not cheated. And if they have any other need of you, give them active assistance both for my sake and for that of the men themselves, for they are deserving of your special consideration. Farewell.


Greek text:   PLond_2045
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translation at:   by J. Bauschatz

FROM KRITON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PSI_411
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: M.Rostovtzeff, 'A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C.', p. 31

Kriton to Zenon greeting. Apollonios has opened the treasury and has found that seven talents of silver are missing; and he has ordered the accounts of Aristeus and Artemidoros to be verified. I have written this to you so that you may accordingly make your own accounts ready. Apollonios was especially angry that the money was recorded as paid, without his order. Farewell.

FROM PYRON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PSI_418
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: A. Sarri, 'Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World', p. 104

Pyron was the chief secretary of Zenon; for another letter from him, see P.Mich. 46.

To Zenon greeting from Pyron.   You will do well, as you promised when you were asked and agreed to do everything possible, to take care so that the child be dressed and be sent to the little palaestra. And after this, to take care of whatever food necessities, so that we are not in need of anything, even oil, and anything else that you find proper, so that we stop disgracing ourselves. And if you agree, order supplies - so that the gamblers, as they will be watching when we enter, will not dishonour us, as if being naked. But if you think our cheap clothing should more expensive, order linen cloth to be given us, until we acquire clothing. And in general, stop breaking your promises to us, so that we are not disheartened. And about Iason, write to us whatever seems fitting.   May you prosper.


Greek text:   PSI_423
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translation at:   by J. Bauschatz

FROM KLEON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PSI_528
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: J.Rowlandson, 'Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt', no. 76

As far as we know, Zenon was never married, and so the word 'father' in this letter is probably (though not certainly) just an expression of respect.

Memorandum to Zenon, his father, from Kleon. Please send to us the provisions that are for both me and my mother, totalling with the oil, 17 drachmas. A wine jar is also ours, containing six choes plus three kotylai, also the contribution for the festival of Hermes and of the Muses, for everyone else has already contributed. Also give thought concerning the water, for we have been buying it for many days past. I have forwarded on to you in addition the letter Demetrios and Hippokrates sent me concerning the fruit from the trees. At any rate, I replied to them, telling them, "Go directly to Zenon, my father." May you prosper.

{Addressed}   To my father.


Greek text:   PSI_599
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: S.B.Pomeroy, 'Women in Hellenistic Egypt', p.168

To Zenon, greeting from the weavers. We have come here to work. To be fair, we should be given one drachma for each talent that we wash and comb. Weaving costs 3 copper drachmas for one linen cloth and even that is not enough for us. Each cloth requires three men and one woman, and it is necessary to work for six straight days. If these conditions do not suit you, give each one 1½ obols and to the woman ½ obol. Give us an assistant at 5 drachmas 2 obols per month who can do the work, deducting this salary from our wages. May you prosper.

FROM PLATON TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59839
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: C.C.Edgar, Zenon Papyri, vol. 5

This is probably the Platon of no. 59192, although the present letter is written in a different type of hand. It is also probable that the olive and fig shoots about which he writes were sent from Alexandria, where he was either permanently or temporarily domiciled.

Platon to Zenon greeting. I have sent you 470 olive shoots, 4 jars of olive juice, 1 bundle of white fig shoots, 1 bundle of Laconian ( with an inscription on each bundle), 1 bundle of Libyan fig shoots. Farewell.

{Addressed}   To Zenon.

{Docketed}   Platon.

FROM HOROS TO PSASYS   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59840
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: A.C. Smith

The letter relates to the construction of a stable which will allow Horos to evacuate a place usually assigned to a stallion, of which Horos has only provisional and contested use.

Hōros to Psasys greeting. I am in difficulty with Demetrios. After Artemidoros wrote about the place once occupied by the stallion, he refused. . . come in person. Take care therefore that Zenon writes to Artemidoros to have bricks and a mason given to build a stable (because it is not without dispute that I use the premises), to ensure that, when the stallion returns, we will not get expelled again.

{Addressed}   To Psasys.


Greek text:   PCairZen_59433
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: A.C. Smith

This letter mentions the Arabs, who were engaged in rearing sheep; see Ragab Salama Omran, "Apollonios, the Dioiketes as a Woolen Textiles Dealer" ( ).

Eudemos to Zenon greeting. I myself cannot leave my [land] because I am busy with the harvest and gathering the corn, and also the wild cattle have prevented me; but I have sent Theodora to bring you the light grey chiton. You will do well to write to Philon that he should make some reduction in our rent; for 15 arouras of our land have worm-eaten and defective corn, and the land sown by us is .. arouras; so if he remits for us ½ artaba for each aroura, we will do . . . to him and [to you]; for .. artabas on 14 aroura is not a small [rent]. And you will do well to exact the rent of the sheep from the Arabs; for Herieus and Portis still have them now, both the sheep and the fleeces. I have received from Ptolemaios [24] out of the 31 sheep; he will have to tell you what happened to the other seven, for it can be proved [? that] I myself have taken away . . . Farewell.

{Addressed}   To Zenon.

FROM PAOSIS TO ZENON   ( undated )

Greek text:   PCairZen_59492
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by: A.C. Smith

See S. von Reden, "Money in Ptolemaic Egypt", p. 234 ( Google Books ).

To Zenon, greetings from Paōsis, the father of Hōros the puntsman of Apollonios, who took me by the hand and gave me to you, and you said, "If anyone wrongs you, report it to me." Know then that Herakleides, the man in charge of 10,000 arouras, has led me away to prison and has taken vengeance on me, demanding a penalty of 100 drachmas. But I have nothing except what Horos left for me, which is a donkey and his sheep. So do not disregard me as I perish in prison, but, if you have any means of helping me, set me free, until I write to Horos and he appeals to Apollonios about these matters. May you prosper.

{Addressed}   To Zenon.


Greek text:   PSI_531
Date:   261-239 B.C.
Translated by:   D.J. Thompson, "Memphis Under the Ptolemies" (2012).

The priests of Astarte of the Phoenico-Egyptians in Memphis to Zenon, greetings. We pray for you from Astarte favour in the eyes of the king. Herostratos sent you the letter-writer on the subject of the [priest] of Astarte who presented a petition to you in the Sarapieion; he asked you to take account of the petition. If, therefore, it meets with your approval, please grant us olive oil and castor oil {kiki} . . . for olive oil and castor oil are given to the temples of the Carians and Helleno-Memphites at a price per chalmaia of 2 drachmas, 3 obols for olive oil and and 1 drachma, 4½ obols for castor oil; and the temple of Astarte is like the temples of the Carians and Helleno-Memphites ; as, then, is done for them let it be done for our temple. May you prosper.

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