Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Over 90 percent of the half-million papyri discovered at Oxyrhynchus are not formal religious or literary texts but rather the mundane documentation—both personal and bureaucratic—of everyday life. It is these documents—bills, wills, notes and especially private letters—that furnish the details of business transactions, political intrigues, torrid love affairs and even the most personal of family matters. In this otherwise-heartfelt letter, a certain Hilarion, who has taken a job in far-off Alexandria, writes to his pregnant wife Alis concerning the financial burden of potentially having another mouth to feed. While he tells her to keep the child if it is a boy, he advises her to “throw it out” if it is a girl.