A letter from a Roman legionary

More than one hundred years ago, it was found a letter from a Roman legionary to his family on a papyrus in Tebtunis (Egypt). From an overall perspective of the document, it’s possible to understand that the writer was serving as a legionary in the II Adiutrix legion located in Pannonia during the 3rd century AC. It is worth – pointing out that the soldier was trying to gain a furlough to go back to his family, which was struggling with the writer himself. It is interesting to note that surprisingly there were lively exchange letters in the ancient Roman world.

Location of Pannonia


“Aurelius Polion, soldier of the II Adiutrix legion, to his brother Heron, to his sister Ploutou, to his mother Seinouphis the baker and the lady (?), best regards. I pray all day and night that you enjoy good health, and I always honour all the gods from your side. I never stop to write to you, but you never think about me. But I play my part always writing and never stopping to be close to you with my mind and my heart. Yet you never write me to tell me about your health and how you carry yourself off. I’m worried about you, because although you often receive letters from me, you have never answered, so I can’t know how you… while I was in Pannonia I have sent you some letters, but you have treat me like a stranger… I have left… And you are happy that (?)… The army. I haven’t… You… For the army, but I… I went away from you. I’ve sent you six letters… I’ll try to get a furlough from the commander and I’ll come to you so that you can understand that I’m your brother… I’ve never asked (?) something to you for the army, but I’ve let you down because although I’ve written to you, neither of you (?) has consideration. Listen, your (?) close… I’m your brother. Even you, answer me… Write to me. Whichever of you… Send me his… To me. Greet my father Aphrodisios and my (?) uncle Atesios… His daughter… Her husband and Orsinouphis and the childern of his aunt, Xenphon and Ouenophis known as Prootas… the Aureli’s… The letter…
To the children and to Seinouphis the baker… From (?) Aurelius (?) Polion, of the II Adiutrix legion… From Pannonia Inferior… Given to Acutius (?) Leon (?), veteran of the legion… From Aurelius Polion, soldier of the II legion Adiutrix, so that he can deliver it home.”Aurelius-Polion-Letter

The writer is always repeating “I’ve sent you some letter… You have never answered me.” The letter depicts a world which is in some ways similar to ours, because people wanted to hear news about people they loved even in that time. Yet while nowadays we have Internet, WhatsApp, Facebook and other tools that can make us feel close to other people, in that time they could be in touch only by letters. We can’t never know how it feels to be thousands of kilometers far from people we love, waiting for some news.



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