Tablet 214

description 100 x 26 mm. Plate XIII. A.R.Birley (1990). VRR II, Plate IV.
The top of the left-hand portion of what was presumably a diptych, with probable remains of a notch in the left-hand edge. It contains the opening of a letter to Cassius Saecularis from a legionary aquilifer whose cognomen is Adiutor and it is the longest and most elaborate example of such an opening. The warm and familiar tone in which Adiutor addresses Saecularis suggests that the rank and status of the correspondents is comparable. The content of other letters to Saecularis (213 and 215) fits the hypothesis that he might have been a centurion, a decurion or an optio in a unit stationed at Vindolanda.
A.R.Birley (1990) has transcribed this text, reading the name of the aquilifer as Vettius Adiutor and his unit as leg(io) ii Aug(usta), and arguing that Vettius Adiutor might be one of two brothers attested on inscriptions from Pannonia. The identifications of the individual and the unit are obviously attractive but attention needs to be drawn to a difficulty in the reading of the gentilicium which we prefer to read as Vịttius (see further note to line 1). As for the identity of his legion, the numeral is very badly abraded but ii is the most plausible reading. It is, of course, the case that legio ii Augusta is the only legion with this epithet stationed in Britain (at Caerleon) in this period; there is, however, evidence for the presence of an individual from legio iii Augusta and a vexillation from legio viii Augusta in Britain probably in the Hadrianic period (see further note to line 2). 216 is also written by the same hand and the tablet has similar semicircular notches in the edge (as does, which has only illegible traces).


'Vittius Adiutor, eagle-bearer of the Second Augustan Legion, to Cassius Saecularis, his little brother, very many [greetings] ... '


1-2. Vịttius Adiutor: only the second letter of the gentilicium is uncertain. This letter has a noticeable serif at the top left, exactly like the serif in i elsewhere in this text, notably the second i in aquilifer and in plurimam; the form also occurs in 216 (see introduction), cf. ChLA V 294. There is also a vestigial trace halfway up the vertical, which might be thought to point to e but which, we think, is not ink. There are two texts, probably the work of the same hand, but a different one from that of the present text, in which e is made in this way (302.4, back 1, 498); elsewhere in the present text e is made in a completely different and much more normal way. Vịttius therefore seems to us a much more satisfactory reading, although we would not wish to exclude altogether the possibility of reading Vẹttius which is, of course, a much commoner gentilicium. Adiutor: the word appears in 199.2, where we originally assumed that it was a common noun (see note); if a name, it can hardly be the same person since it presumably refers to someone at Vindolanda. aquilifer: see Breeze (1974), 269, 272, Speidel (1984), 3-6, 23-7. This was a senior staff post from which promotion to the centurionate was normal.

2. leg(ionis) á ịị Aug(ustae): the spacing in this part of the line is very generous. The clear medial point after leg must mark the abbreviation. Thereafter the numeral is very abraded and the reading is complicated by the descender of r from the line above, between it and aug. The reading of the latter is secure, although there is no sign of a medial point following. In the numeral, traces of at least two digits are clear and the reading ịị, which would identify Adiutor's unit as legio ii Augusta based at Caerleon (so Birley, 1990b), is the most plausible. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that ILS 2726 (cf. 2735) contains evidence for the career of Pontius Sabinus, a primus pilus of the African legio iii Augusta who was praepositus uexillationibus milliariis tribus expeditione Britannica, among which was one vexillation from legio viii Augusta from Upper Germany (see also CIL 7.495, the inscription on the shield-boss of a soldier of legio viii, found in the Tyne, and RIB I 782). This expeditio is traditionally dated in AD 122 (for a summary of the evidence see Tomlin, Britannia 23 (1992), 318 and cf. Frere (1987), 123) and would therefore probably be too late to be relevant to the Vindolanda text.

3-4. fraterclo: this fairly rare diminutive (see TLL VI.1 1258) does not appear elsewhere in the openings of the Vindolanda letters nor can we find any instance in CEL. Note Cicero, Verr. 3.155, uolo, mi frater, fraterculo tuo credas.

4. plurimam: cf. 309.i.1, 310.i.2-3, 311.i.1-2.

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