Tablet 120

description 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.


. . . . . . . .
]ạlḷ.ṇ.[.].[ n
]ibi · soluerẹṇt n


1. The first surviving letter could equally well be r, but if ll follows we must read a; in either case it is made in a cursive not a capital form, with a very long descender (r in line 2 has only a short descender; P.Hawara has r made with a long descender on the verso). l appears certain for the next letter and very probable for the letter thereafter; on both occasions it is made in the capital form, as it is in line 2. The next letter is very unclear; it looks most like o but, if so, it is much smaller than o in the next line. After n, which is reasonably secure, we have the foot of an upright, most probably i or t. After a gap a long diagonal survives, but the ink is preserved in such a way that it is impossible to be certain whether this diagonal belongs to this line or the line below. If it belongs to line 1 it must be the tail of q or, less probably, g; for q with such a tail cf. P.Iand.V 90 and Doc.Masada 721; g is written with a long tail in P.Hawara. Two or three letters may have been lost after this.

2. Between the lines is an almost horizontal line of ink, cutting through the top of b. This can hardly be anything other than the tail of q from the lost part at the left of line 1. b is made in the normal cursive form, with a very tall ascender. There is clear interpunct after ibi. s following is not in the normal capital form, since it lacks the stroke at the foot which would usually complete the letter; however, it is closer to this form than to the ordinary cursive form. o is large and u is made in a v-form, much like the form found in 118. e is narrow and in a capital form; it is made in much this form in all the texts referred to above. If the diagonal referred to in the note to line 1 belongs to this line, it can only have been a long leading-in stroke to the oblique of n; this exaggerated leading-in stroke is occasionally found, e.g. in P.Iand.V 90 and, less noticeably, in P.Hawara.

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