Letter: UPenn E 16522

Letter UPenn E 16522



Letter from a Jewish shipowner from Alexandria. Dating: ca. 1212 CE. He provides an exciting story about traveling to Cyprus but being diverted by a storm to Tarsus (then the capital of Lesser Armenia, a Christian kingdom ruled by Leon II (1187–1219)). The shipowner was afraid that the king would force him to take up his residence in Tarsus instead of Alexandria. But a Christian business friend, probably himself a native of Egypt, helpfully secured a strong letter of safe-conduct. The writer had a good time in Tarsus and would have remained longer, had not illness forced him to hurry back to Alexandria. The second part of the letter reports the successful treatment of the writer and mentions the name of four physicians. In the third section the writer alludees to an illustrious person of Sicily, Yiṣḥaq b. Avraham, who had been forced to leave his home. The community in Alexandria was unable to take care of him for at the same time a large company had arrived from France, and the cost of their stay in the town and the expenses for their travel (to the Holy Land) put a heavy strain on public charity. Information from Goitein, Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders (attached). The handwriting looks like that of Berakhot b. Shemuel (which, if correct, may simply mean that he was hired as scribe by the sender). ASE