The Greek Papyri 281
spells recommended in these handbooks have a touch of the
modern advertisement and their psychological appeal is not so
different: for example—
*A magic formula that restrains anger, secures goodwill, success in
the lawcourts, works even with kings; there is absolutely nothing better.
Take a silver plate, inscribe on it with a bronze pencil the figure drawn
below and the names, carry it in the folds of your dress and you will
win' (then follow the names and the actual formula).
Among all varieties of public religion which we find in the
papyri, magic and the attitude it expresses remain constant.
Not many of the private letters are so full of character and
life as Eudaemonis'; they are excellent examples of the type of
material for ancient history with which only the papyri can
supply us. More typical of the ordinary letter, both in its con-
cern with Egypt's abiding interest, agriculture, and its unpre-
tentiousness, is this:
'Ammonius to his dearest Aphrodisius, greeting. I wrote a letter to
the herdsman Heracleus that he should supply you with a donkey, and
I bade Ophelion to supply you with another and to send me the loaves.
You have sent me three artabae; I ask you therefore to do your utmost
to send the remaining three artabae immediately and the relish, as I
am on board a boat. As to the pigs' fodder and the rest of the price
for the hay, make provision until I come; for I expect to make up an
account with you. I have given you every allowance. Urge your
wife from me to look after the pigs and do you also take care of the
calf. Be sure, Aphrodisius, to send me the loaves and the relish.. . .'
Such unconsidered trifles may seem beneath the dignity of Clio;
but if we have enough of them they can provide us with a back-
ground against which the historical events of the period assume
their proper proportion.
No exact classification of documents, except by their formal
character and not always then, is possible; they have the variety,
the confusion, the irrational complexity of life itself. If, as
the elder Pliny thought, written records are of the ess&ice of