Traveling back to the ancient days of the 2nd century AD, we find ourselves in the company of a young adventurer named Apion, hailing from a quaint Egyptian hamlet. Apion’s odyssey commenced when he enlisted in the Roman army within the bustling city of Alexandria. He embarked on a treacherous voyage to Italy aboard an official government vessel, braving the tempestuous seas and a fierce storm that tested his mettle.
Upon his arrival in the distant Roman land, Apion was promptly equipped with a new uniform and received his hard-earned payment. Filled with homesickness and affection for his family, he decided to commission a portrait to be sent back to his loved ones, accompanying it with a heartfelt message. However, Apion, not proficient in the art of writing, sought the assistance of a professional letter writer to convey his emotions. To make the message even more special, two of his comrades who had embarked on this journey together added their warm greetings in the left margin.
This heartfelt letter, originally penned in Greek on a delicate piece of papyrus, embarked on its own journey. It was carefully folded and sealed, making its way through the highly efficient Roman military postal system. Eventually, it reached the quiet village in Egypt where Apion’s father and family eagerly read it nearly two millennia ago. After the passage of time and the father’s eventual passing, the letter was unintentionally discarded among household waste.
Fast forward to recent times, modern-day archaeologists unearthed this precious artifact beneath the remnants of a collapsed house. Alongside it, they discovered another letter written by Apion himself, chronicling his life after years of dedicated service on the Roman frontier. In this letter, he shared his experiences of building a family with a loving wife and children. Regrettably, this is where our knowledge of Apion’s life comes to an end.
I leave here the content of the letter sent to his father:
Greetings on this special day!
I trust this message finds you in good health, along with my sister, her daughter, and my brother. I offer my gratitude to Lord Serapis, who rescued me during a treacherous sea ordeal.
Upon reaching Misenum, the Roman war port near Naples, I received three gold coins from the emperor, [possibly Trajan], to fund my journey, and I am in good spirits. I kindly request a brief note from you, my dear father, regarding your well-being, followed by updates on my brother and sister. Finally, may I extend my devout regards to you, the one who raised me so well, giving me hope for future advancement, with the gods’ blessings. Pass on my warm wishes to Capiton, my brother, sister, Serenilla, my friends, and family.
I’m sending you a small portrait via Euktemon. My Roman name is now Antonius Maximus.