Rice Grad Student Translates a Roman Soldier's Letter From Centuries Ago

Roman military recruit Aurelius Polion was homesick. We know this 1,800 years later because Rice University grad student Grant Adamson has deciphered a private letter Polion wrote in Greek to his family on papyrus.

According to a Rice University press release, Polion has written six unanswered letters to his mother, brother and sister. He's stationed in Europe, during a time of peace, but misses his Egyptian home and wants to hear from someone.

"I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you.

"I sent six letters to you. The moment you have(?) me in mind, I shall obtain leave from the consular (commander), and I shall come to you so that you may know that I am your brother. For I demanded(?) nothing from you for the army, but I fault you because although I write to you, none of you(?) ... has consideration. Look, your(?) neighbor ... I am your brother."

The letter was found in 1899 in Egypt but had not been translated until now.

Here's Adamson and his faculty adviser, April DeConick, chair of Rice's Religious Studies Department talking about the project.

As DeConick stated: "One thing that I think is important about this letter is that it reflects the emotions of a solider in the ancient world. His emotions are really no different than those of soldiers today, who are longing to go home."

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