Death of a Slave Boy

Jennifer Cromwell Cymbals struck as festival performers wound their way through the village’s streets . But then tragedy struck. Leaning over the balcony to view the players below, a young slave boy Epaphroditos fell and died. Was it an accident? Was it murder?This tragic event took place in year 23 of the reign of the emperor CommodusContinue reading “Death of a Slave Boy”

Struggling to Provide

Jennifer Cromwell In early December, one year in the seventh century, a man called Damianos from the Fayum asked for a cash loan and was given it from another man, Shenoute. Short loan contracts such as this one are pretty common, although the amount and type of details provided vary from case to case. WhatContinue reading “Struggling to Provide”

“Schoolboy, where have you been going so long?”: The Old Babylonian Student and School

Moudhy Al-Rashid Amid the ruins of Nippur is a house, inspiringly named “House F”, made up of a small courtyard with four rooms. The crumbled remains of benches appear in one room and in the courtyard, where there are also three recessed boxes constructed from mud brick. In these boxes were fragments of tablets andContinue reading ““Schoolboy, where have you been going so long?”: The Old Babylonian Student and School”

Parental Grief and Child Mortality

Jennifer Cromwell At birth, there was only a 66 per cent chance of celebrating your first birthday: one-third of all new-borns in the ancient world died before reaching that milestone. Once a child reached the age of five, their life-expectancy rose considerably, but the loss of at least one child was something that every parentContinue reading “Parental Grief and Child Mortality”

“If God saves him from death”: Donation of a boy to a Coptic monastery

Jennifer Cromwell On the 29 August 766 CE, a woman named Tachel daughter of Sophia from Luxor (ancient Apê) donated her son Athanasius to a local monastery, the monastery of Apa Phoibammon at Deir el-Bahri. “In this current 5th indiction year, an infant boy was born to me, the woman and free person Tachel, inContinue reading ““If God saves him from death”: Donation of a boy to a Coptic monastery”

Baby Exposed, Baby Snatched, Roman Egypt-Style

Katherine Blouin Babies being abandoned by or snatched from their family is, sadly, not a recent phenomenon. One papyrus from 1st-century CE Oxyrhynchus offers a glimpse into how these scenarios were legally dealt with when Egypt was ruled by the Romans. The document contains extracts from the court proceedings of Tiberius Claudius Pasion, who wasContinue reading “Baby Exposed, Baby Snatched, Roman Egypt-Style”

A Runaway Child Bride

Jennifer Cromwell How early was too early to marry in the ancient world? If the answer is connected to being an adult, then what is an adult? And does that question differ for men and women? Is it simply a question of reaching sexual maturity (puberty), which was older in the ancient world than itContinue reading “A Runaway Child Bride”

“My milk being good from both breasts”

Jennifer Cromwell In a Coptic letter from the 7th century CE, a wet nurse Maria expresses her grief and condolences over the death of a young girl (P.Amh. II 188 desc.; edition by Alain Delattre et al., 2018). “My heart grieved when I heard about my daughter, that she had died.” Maria then goes on to wishContinue reading ““My milk being good from both breasts””

Death in the Desert

Jennifer Cromwell Life in the ancient world, before the development of modern medicine, was hard. Child mortality rates were high, life-expectancy was much lower than it is today, and illnesses and injuries that are easily cured now were often fatal. Life out in the oases of the western desert must have been especially difficult. ForContinue reading “Death in the Desert”