Inv.no.86.409. 66 x 24 mm. Plate I.
A fragment of a leaf containing part of two lines. It is complete at the right and, probably, at the foot. The back is blank.
The reason for suggesting that this text may be literary is entirely palaeographical. The hand in which it is written is remarkable for being much more elegant than is normal in the tablets. It reminds one forcibly of P.Hawara 24 = PGP II.1 7, which has on one side a line of Virgil used as a writing exercise; see Turner (1957), Dow (1968), Seider (1976), esp. 133-6 and 165-72. All agree in assigning the papyrus to the later first century AD, thus making it more or less contemporary with our Vindolanda text. As in our text, the letters in P.Hawara are a mixture of capitals and cursives. All the letters are similar or very similar to those in the Vindolanda text; note especially the very tall ascender to b (made in the cursive form), u with the left stroke a diagonal and the right almost vertical, and r in the cursive form but with a very short descender. Other literary texts from the late first century BC and the first century AD, whether writing exercises or not, which may be compared are: the Gallus papyrus (Anderson, Parsons and Nisbet (1979)), P.Iand. V 90 = PGP II.1 1, Doc.Masada 721 and P.Oxy.L 3554 (= Cockle (1979)). We therefore think there is some reason to class the present text as literary, but we have not succeeded in identifying it with any known piece of Latin literature. There is no reason to think it was a writing exercise and it is certainly possible that it is just a fragment of an ordinary private letter, over the writing of which the writer took more than usual care.