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Private Life

249. Exposure of a female child. Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, 1 B.C. (Oxyrhynchus papyrus 744. G)

A letter from a husband to his wife directing her not to raise her baby if it is female. Exposed children were left to be raised by others or to die.[1]

Hilarion to Alis his sister,[2] heartiest greetings, and to my dear Berous and Apollonarion. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all the others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech of you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If-good luck to you!-you bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it. You told Aphrodisias, 'Do not forget me.' How can I forget you? I beg you therefore not to worry.

The 29th year of Caesar, Pauni 23.


Notes:

1. The Gnomon of the Idiologue (no. 148), makes provision for the inheritance rights of male foundlings, or 'children from the dung-heap' (sects. 41, 107); no provisions are made for female children, who presumably were not given dowries but kept as slaves (Cf. no. 381). Heraclas, a boy foundling who died while being nursed is mentioned in POxy 37.i.7 and 38.7.

2. Brother or sister often denotes any close relationship.