Geese were very popular in ancient Egypt as food and also for the use of their grease and feathers. As well, the Egyptian god Geb – called also ‘The Great Cackler’ figured centrally in ancient Egyptian religion:
Notables and those with enough resources could build up a gooseherd, as depicted in the banner photo above; apparently quite an honourable task. Hence, robbery of a goose and/or its outputs was considered worthy of writing about, as is the case of the letter being examined in this blog, which was written by a village bureaucrat to his superiors.
Title: Official letter, [9 May 137 B.C.] Author: Phanesis, Village scribe Subjects: Tenant farmers [of royal land in the area] Police Larceny Unlawful entry Officials and employees
P.Duk.inv. 599 [above] A Papyrus copy of a letter written by Phanesis, a village scribe in the Herakleopolites (Heracleopolite Nome, see below map), Egypt. Written to Amenneus and sent with a cover letter by two people.
Letter reports that one of the tenants of royal land, Horion, sent the guards or police of the island of Rhodon to Heracleopolis Magna [a large town in the southern Fayuum] to meet Komanos, the epistates [chief of police.]
That same day Agathinos and Philammon and others with them sealed the house of Ababikis.
Thereafter, Horion and one of the other tenants of royal land, Petesouchos, and their accomplices broke into the house and stole a pickled goose and two pillows.
One can imagine that the two pillows were stuffed with the feathers and down of the pickled goose.
The farewell of the cover letter reads, “be of good health.”
Dated to Pharmouthi 17, year 33 (9 May 137 B.C.), the same day as the cover letter. The above image of a goose, now in the Walters Gallery, is approximately the same date as this letter.
‘…one of three texts detailing a home invasion by agents of an archiphylakites* who made off with (among other things) a pickled goose and two pillows.’
In another blog I will provide a little background on letters composed during the Ptolemaic period in Egypt.