Newsletters predate Cleopatra

Well, sort of – the oldest known pieces of written marketing are thought to be 5000-year-old ‘WANTED’ flyers from Thebes.1,2 Ancient Babylonians, too, were apparently into their ads, selling their products with the aid of fancy clay tablets that presumably smelled a bit funny.1

But leave it to the Romans to take it to the next level. That’s right, when you’re next about to press ‘delete’ on that devotedly crafted (but annoying) newsletter that landed in your inbox, spare a thought for Caesar. He didn’t get knifed repeatedly in the back for you to discard his legacy: handwritten reports from the Roman Empire represent some of the first known newsletters.3

What’s that? Surely the ‘Acta Diurna Populi Romani’ (Daily Acts of the Roman People), launched in 59 BC by Julius Caesar himself,3 must have been pretty boring, you say? Only if by boring, you mean CONTAINS NEWS OF FIRES AND EXECUTIONS.

That’s right, here is a list of the various little exposés featured in ye olde Acta. See if something catches your eye:3

  • Details of government business
  • News of the rich and famous
  • The weather
  • Fires and executions

Surviving two centuries, the handwritten newsletter had a substantial readership for ancient Rome, being posted in many of the popular places of the day (including the bathhouses) – and it was even read aloud in public places.3 ‘It’s another hot day, though that’s not why Timthius Augustus was caught in the unfortunate inferno this afternoon’: a report nestled somewhere between pages 12 and 18 in the Acta, presumably.

So, next bath time, why not have your significant other read our very own newsletter to you, à la ancient Rome? It’s bound to make your little spa moment extra special. Just don’t drop the candles, or else you might be in the next issue.

Subscribe here. We promise not to include news of executions. Fires, maybe.


  1. Klinghoffer S. From Papyrus to E-mail: The History of Newsletter Marketing. Available at: Accessed July 2021.
  2. Chandrasekar KS. Marketing management : text and cases. New Delhi ; Singapore : Tata McGraw-Hill, ©2010.
  3. Endres KL. Newsletters, Newspapers, Pamphlets. Journalism and mass communication. 2011;1.