The papyrus is historically interesting for several reasons. For one, it documents a Christian woman going to church on the Sabbath (ἀπελθοῦσα [εἰ]ς τὸ κυριακὸν ἐν σαμβάθῳ). This is interesting because we learn from many early Christian authors that Christians no longer observed the Sabbath (e.g., Ignatius, Mag. 9; Tertullian Idol. 14). The papyrus also documents a clear case of violence against slaves. The text states that the husband “insulted his slaves and my [the wife’s] slave Zoe and half killed them with blows, and he applied fire to my foster-daughters.” We learn from other ancient sources that slaves often suffered extreme violence at the hands of their slave owners, so we should take this description at face value. Notice that both the husband and the wife owned slaves, which suggests they were wealthy. Another interesting feature of the text is that some local bishops served as reconcilers: “he [i.e., the husband] swore in the presence of the bishops” (ὤμοσεν ἐπὶ παρουσίᾳ τῶν ἐπισκόπων). This demonstrates that the clergy were appealed to in the first instance, and that the wife was forced to turn to the state only after the church proved ineffective in settling the dispute. This raises many questions concerning the authoritative boundaries of Christian clergy in domestic affairs.
Overall, this is a fascinating papyrus that gives a glimpse into the realities of domestic life, spousal abuse, and the role of Christian clergy. More importantly, it provides good evidence that women could and did make use of the Roman legal system to protect themselves against violence from their husbands. Here is an English translation of the text (Greek text here) along with an image of the papyrus: