Thursday, August 1, 2019

Joke Souvenir from Ancient Rome

During the excavation for the new Bloomberg headquarters in London, archaeologists recovered thousands of Roman artifacts, including more than 200 iron styluses that were used for writing on wax tablets. One of them, which they date to around 70 AD, had an inscription:
ab urbe v[e]n[i] munus tibi gratum adf(e)ro
acul[eat]um ut habe[a]s memor[ia]m nostra(m)
rogo si fortuna dar[e]t quo possem
largius ut longa via ceu sacculus est (v)acuus

I have come from the City. I bring you a welcome gift
with a sharp point that you may remember me.
I ask, if fortune allowed, that I might be able (to give)
as generously as the way is long (and) as my purse is empty.
The excavators render that colloquially as "I went to Rome and all I got you was this lousy stylus."

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