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Medicine and Anatomy

381. Two contracts for the services of wet nurses for slave children. Alexandria, 13 B.C. (BGU 4.1106, 1107. G)

The contracts appear to favour the slave-owners over the resident aliens who have been engaged to nurse their foundling slave babies. In the first contract, the foundling is specifically female (cf. no. 249), but in the second the sex of the child is not specified. Although repetitions in the phraseology indicate that such contracts were standard, the stiff penalties and exact specifications suggest that in previous instances both the slave-owners and wet nurses had failed to keep their part of the bargain.

(1106) To Protarchus on the tribunal from Marcus Aemilius son of Marcus of the Claudian tribe and from Theodote the daughter of Dositheus, a Persian,[1] with her husband Sophron son of ...archus, from the Persian expedition serving as her guardian and guarantor in regard to this contract. According to the agreement Theodote contracts for 18 months from Phamenoth of the present 17th year of the emperor Augustus to care for and nurse outside of his home in her own home in the city with her own pure and unadulterated milk the foundling slave child that Marcus has entrusted to her as a nursling by the name of Tyche,[2] having taken from him for each month as pay for her milk and nursing care along with olive oil 8 drachmas.

Theodote has also received from Marcus by hand from his own house for the aforesaid 18 months for nine months' nursing 72 drachmas, and if during that time the child should experience a mortal calamity, Theodote agrees to care for another foundling child and to nurse her and to hand the child over to Marcus after nine months, receiving no additional wages at all, because she has undertaken to bring up a child irrespective of whether it dies or not, taking good care of her in all other respects month by month, and to give her the care she would give her own child, not ruining her milk or sleeping with her husband nor becoming pregnant or nursing another child. Whatever things she receives she shall keep safe and return when requested to, or pay back [to Marcus] the value of each unless it can be demonstrated that the child is dead; if this can be shown she is released from obligation. Moreover, she is not to abandon her nursing responsibilities during the time.

If she does not abide by the contract, she and her husband Sophron are liable to prosecution and to be held in custody until she has paid back the wages she has already received, and she is to pay what she has taken plus one half and the damages and expenses and 300 silver drachmas in addition. In the event of such a judgement, both parties are liable for restitution of the money and it may be taken from either one or the other, and from all their property, as if by court judgement, with all assurances that they may produce and all protection being invalid. But if she fulfils her contractual obligations, Marcus Aemilius is to pay Theodote her monthly wages for nursing for the remaining nine months and he shall not take away the child during that time unless he pays her the equivalent wages. Theodote is to come to Marcus three times per month in order that the child may be inspected by him. Theodote the daughter of Dositheus and her husband Sophron for the slave child Tyche and for 18 months have received 8 drachmas for 9 months, in the city.

(1107) To Protarchus from Isidora the daughter of Com ... with her brother Eutychides son of Com ... acting as guardian and from Didyme the daughter of Apollonius, a Persian, with her brother Ischyrion son of Apollonius of the Persian expedition acting as guardian. Didyme agrees to take care of and to nurse outside of his home at her home in the city with her own pure and unadulterated milk for 16 months from Pharmouthi of the current 17th year of Augustus Caesar, the foundling infant slave child that Isidora has entrusted to her as nursling. Didyme has received from the aforesaid Isidora wages for her milk and nursing care for each month ten drachmas of silver and two cotylae of oil. In return for these wages she contracts to take care of herself and not ruin her milk nor sleep with a man nor become pregnant nor nurse another child. Whatever belongings from the child she receives or is entrusted with, she shall keep safe and return when requested to, or to pay back the value of each unless it can be demonstrated that the child is dead; if this can be shown she is released from obligation.

Furthermore Didyme has received from Isidora by hand from her house oil for the first three months, Pharmouthi, Pachon, and Pauni. She is not to abandon her nursing during this time, but if she does not abide by the contract she must pay back the wages she has received and half of whatever she has received plus damages and expenses, and in addition she is to pay 500 drachmas and the prescribed fine. Isidora is to have right of execution on Didyme's person, and on all her possessions as if by court judgement, with all assurances that Didyme may produce and all protection being invalid. But if she fulfils all the conditions of the contract, Isidora is to provide her with the monthly wages for the remaining 13 months as specified above, and not to take the child away during that time, unless she pays her the equivalent wages. Didyme shall visit Isidora every month on four separate days taking the child with her to be inspected by her.

(second hand) I, Isidora, agree to abide by this contract as written. I, Eutychides, declare myself as guardian of my sister and have written for her because she does not know letters.

(third hand) I, Didyme agree to abide by this contract as written. I, Ischyrion, declare myself as guardian of my sister and have written for her because she does not know letters. (first hand). Isidora's contract. 17th year of Caesar's reign.


Notes:

Cf. number 101.

I.e., 'Luck'; when Oedipus he was adopted as foundling, he states 'I shall regard myself as Tyche's child' (Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1080).