Tablet 242

description

Inv.no.85.160.a. 225 x 51 mm. Plate XVI. VRR II, Plate VII.
Two fragments of a diptych, containing a letter which presents problems of reading and interpretation. What is legible is only a small part of the text at the beginning of the main part of the letter and, if ueni (line 2) is to be taken as an imperative, the writer is instructing someone to come to Vindolanda in connection with a numeratio. The hand in which the text is written bears some similarity to that of 291, 248 etc., but since the latter come from the household of Brocchus and Severa, it can hardly be the same hand (note, too, that it uses interpunct more consistently). The name of the sender, on the reverse, which suggests that the letter is not a draft or copy, is certainly not Brocchus. If it is Cerialis, as it seems to be, it is not easy to explain how a letter from him (a) ended up at Vindolanda and (b) was addressed to someone from his own cohort (see notes to ii.2 and back 2). Of the four lines on the right-hand portion, the first is so abraded as to be illegible for all practical purposes; the other three could well be written by the same hand as 225-32, which we have identified as the hand of Cerialis. The message seems to be dated at the end (line ii.4) and this may be explained by the supposition that Cerialis was instructing someone to return to Vindolanda at short notice. In short, it is possible that we have a letter from Cerialis perhaps to a centurion of his own cohort, absent but not too far away, instructing him to return for some official duty; and that the letter was brought back to Vindolanda by its recipient and deposited there.

edition

i:
. . . . . . . .
c̣ṛạṣ · ḅẹne mane Vindo-
landam
n ueni · ut n
numerationi · cen- n
ii:
. . . . . . . .
traces n
uale mi F̣elic̣ị .. [ n
kạṛịṣṣịṃe uacat n
...... Ṣẹpṭembṛẹṣ n

translation

'Come to Vindolanda tomorrow, early in the morning in order to ... the payment (?) of the century (?) ... (2nd hand?) Farewell, my dearest Felicio (?) ... September. (Back) ... of the 9th Cohort of Batavians, from Flavius Cerialis, prefect (?). '

commentary

i.1. If the letter is from Cerialis (see note to back 2), there should be some chance that the missing opening address may survive on another fragment. We have considered 237 and 240, of which the former was found in the same area as 242. In the first, the size and lack of an addressee seem unpromising, although the hand is similar; the hand of 240 looks distinctly different. This line commences further to the left than the two following lines which would normally suggest that it is the beginning of the message proper. At the beginning of the line only the bottoms of letters are preserved; r and s are virtually certain and the first trace is compatible with the bottom of c. If we read cras, which we think is the most attractive reading, we could envisage this as the opening of the message, albeit somewhat abrupt. We suggest that this message was sent to someone at a place very close to Vindolanda, perhaps an officer in charge of a small detachment outposted at a fortlet (see ii.2 note and cf. 154, Bowman and Thomas (1991), 68 and note 35).

i.2. ueni: this could be either an imperative or a first person singular perfect. We prefer to suppose that we have an imperative and that the note was brought back to Vindolanda by its recipient.

i.3. numerationi á cen[: there may be an apex mark over the a of numerationi. The word can refer either to counting or, in a financial sense, to payment or accounting. Either would suit the context here. In the first sense, it might refer to a head-count on which strength reports such as 154 were based. RMR 65.10, a summary of dispositions from Dura-Europos (c. AD 240), rel numerare, might be such a reference (the denarius symbol at the end of the line does not look a plausible reading in this context). In that case cen-/[turiae or cen-/[turiarum, with the end of the word coming in the first line of col.ii, would seem the obvious restoration. In the financial sense, we note Tacitus, Hist.1.58, Vitellius ... uacationes centurionibus ex fisco numerat (cf. Frontinus, Str. 1.11.4) and the Feriale Duranum, RMR 117.i.6-7, [vii Idus] Ianu[arias quod detur emeritis honesta missio cum usu priui]legio[rum] uel nume[re]n[t]ur [militibus stipendia ...]. These would suggest the restoration numerationi cen-/[turionum (-ibus), referring to payments made to the centurions either for special purposes, such as uacationes, or as stipendium (for the dates of such pay-days see RMR p.266). In either case, the sense which we envisage seems to require a verb such as praesis or intersis. The other possibility which we have considered is cen[sus (cf. 304), but we have not found any example of the use of numeratio in this connection.

ii.1. Only the bottoms of letters survive.

ii.2-3. uale mi is certain, as are the following feli. If this is the start of feliciter or felicissime (for which there is no exact parallel in the tablets), we should have to take mi as for mihi. The phrase does occur in CEL 7.ii.17, uale mihi Macedo, but it is much more likely that mi is a vocative as elsewhere in this phrase (e.g. 247.2, 288.4, and cf. Cicero Verr. 3.155, quoted in 214.3-4 note). If so, we can only suggest that it was followed by a personal name (cf. ChLA X 417, where the emperor addresses the prefect of Egypt as mi Maxime). There is evidence in the tablets for a centurion named Felicio in the Ninth Cohort of Batavians, see 166.1 and note. We are reasonably confident of karissime in line 3 and it may be that all we have is uale mi Felicio karissime.

ii.4. We are confident of bres, which must mean that we have a date here, cf. CEL 8, and ChLA XI 488 (where the date is preceded by dat(um)). septem best fits the preceding traces but the letters at the beginning of the line are very abraded; perhaps the most likely reading is a number followed by nonas.

Back.1. The name of the addressee presumably stood above this line on the lost part of the leaf. There is one possible trace of a letter at the extreme top left corner. The numeral is reasonably clear and may have a superscript dash above it. There is no sign of coh preceding.

Back.2. If, as we think, this is the name of the sender, it is noteworthy that it is not written with an upward slant. io as the end of the gentilicium looks reasonably clear. In Ceriale the end seems secure but ri are particularly difficult. The first letter could be read as g and this suggests the possibility Geniale (cf. 256 from Genialis to Cerialis), but ni is even more difficult than ri. What follows is probably compatible with the expected praef(ecto).

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