Peter Jones

The Sands of Egypt

City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 288pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Molesworth Self-Adjusting Thank-You Letter (‘Dear Aunt/Uncle/Stinker, Thank you very much for the train/tractor/germ gun. It was lovely/useful/not bad’ and so on) has proved a blessing to schoolchildren for many years now, but the principle is at least 1,700 years old. For the desert sands of an ancient Greek town in Egypt have yielded a model ‘Letter of Consolation’, datable to about AD 300: ‘— to —, be of good heart. When the terrible news was signified to me about the deceased —, how I was distressed …’, etc.

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