“Now It’s Cannibalism, Not War”


From the Zooniverse’s Ancient Lives project comes this haunting letter of distress from a son to his parents, from nearly two millennia ago. Editor Peter J. Parsons has provided a translation of as much of the text is readable, including this spooky excerpt:

I’m about to sail and get clear of the city… Things have happened, the like of which hasn’t happened through all the ages. Now it’s cannibalism, not war … I wanted to come to you, but the … of the city has kept me here. Well, if we survive …

The team speculates that the letter-writer, Arius, may have been a citizen of Alexandria, the “city” in his letter. The “cannibalism” he refers to may be the infamous massacre of the Alexandrians by the Roman emperor Caracalla in the year 215. The emperor is said to have ordered thousands of Alexandrian citizens killed… just because they were making fun of him.

Help uncover more stories from the distant past with Ancient Lives!

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