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I am Kleia, the daughter of Apollonia. My people are settlers from Chios and have lived here in Ptolemais for two generations now. We are Greeks, of a good family. My father is a tax-farmer, and my mother an assistant to the kanephore at the festival of the Great Goddess. But you probably knew that already, didn’t you? You have been good to our family, helping my mother birth six children, four of whom survived.
I have come before you, Artemis, because I am to wed Demetrios, the merchant’s son. I am told that he is very wealthy and frequently goes on important business up to the city for his father. My father says that he is a kind man, fond of books, and that he will provide well for me. I hope to give him many fine sons and to make him a happy man.
Before I am to wed him, though, I must put aside my childish things. And so I place here on your altar my ball and rattle, my comb and my favorite dress (the pretty one with the red stripe across the middle), and lastly this jointed doll, with the yarn hair that my mother made for me.
I call her Senni, because she reminds me of my Egyptian friend who had a big smile like my doll and would always laugh so hard when we played down by the river. The nymphs took her and I miss her. It is fitting, I suppose, that you should have this Senni too. I don’t need her any more. She is a child’s plaything and I am a woman now. I bleed and my breasts have started to come in. I should have given these things up long ago, but now I have no choice for I am to be Demetrios’ wife.
It still sounds strange in my ears to say that. What do I know of keeping a house and raising babies? I never had an interest in such things, though all my girlfriends liked to pretend. It’s all they talked about, in fact. I was much more interested in exploring down by the river, watching the crocodiles and the ibises feed on the fishes, and listening to the slave teach my brothers their Homer. I would sit beside them and daydream that I was one of your nymph companions, joining you in the hunt. Oh, to be so free and wild – how I loved those dreams! But all that is behind me now, isn’t it?
These trinkets on your altar are the last ties to my childhood.
Care for them, would you?
They are important to me. Especially Senni. I loved her most of all.
I know I’ve already placed them there … but may I touch her, one last time?
And goddess? I know I shouldn’t pray this. I am supposed to ask only for strong, handsome, brave sons, sons to make my husband proud. Give me those, please.
But could you also send me a daughter like Senni? The real Senni, not my doll. With a gentle soul, a big smile, and always laughing.
I think I would like that. I would brush her hair, and give her her own tutor to teach her Homer so that she didn’t have to sneak her lessons, and I wouldn’t force her to marry a boy she didn’t know before she was ready.
That is my prayer, Artemis.
Thank you for listening to me.
I have to go now. The priest is waiting impatiently outside. I can hear his sandals on the flagstones as he restlessly paces back and forth.
Thank you again, from Kleia, who is going to be a good wife, you just wait and see.