BUSINESS LETTER ON AN OSTRACON
FRANCISCA A. J. HOOGENDIJK
This Greek ostracon belongs to the private collection in Leiden of Mr. A. Fatatri, and I
am most grateful for his permission to publish it here. It was bought on the antiquities
market, together with the demotic ostraca edited in the present volume, p. 151 and p. 160.
They were all said to come from Thebes. The text may be assigned to the second half of
the second century A.D. on palaeographical grounds.
The overall appearance of the handwriting is reminiscent of that of the Florida
ostraca of the middle of the second century (cf. pp. 3-5), especially O. Florida 15 (Plate 7),
although some of the letter forms differ. As is suggested by the parallel, Roman influence
on the script is possible. For the T) with curve to the left (line 5), see W. SCHUBART,
Griechische Paläographie, Abb. 42. The v, drawn with its stem upwards, is of the "rising
type"; see J. P. GUMBERT, P. L. Bat. 14, pp. 1-12.
The ostracon contains a business letter from Paulinus to Serenus, whom he addresses
as his brother, and perhaps they actually were brothers. The contents are difficult to
reconstruct, especially as the end of each line is lacking. It is certain, however, that
Serenus had previously sent a letter to Paulinus, asking him to do something, and the
present letter is Paulinus' reply in which he tells him that he has done his best to act
accordingly. He reports now that he had succeeded in obtaining something in exchange
for or instead of four artabas of a certain commodity. This may have been five artabas of
the same commodity (see line 4, note). The drift of lines 5-6 might just possibly be that
Paulinus struck a good bargain and received the five artabas at the price of four. But here
we are only guessing.
Potsherd: thickness: 0.5-0. 9cm.; colour: reddish brown; on the front two dark brown bands which were part of
the decoration of the original pot; the back is ribbed and not inscribed. The text is complete on three sides, but