Tablet 255

description 195 x 60 mm. Plate VIII. VRR II, Plate VIII.
A complete leaf containing a letter in two columns from Clodius Super to Cerialis. Clodius Super may be a centurion (see note to line 20), in which case the somewhat familiar form of the closing greeting is interesting (cf. 242.ii.2-3). We have not been able to identify him in any other texts, however, and there is no clue to his whereabouts. The main purpose of the letter is to record that the writer was pleased that Valentinus, just returned from Gaul, had approved some clothing and to request that Cerialis should send him (sc. Super) some cloaks and tunics for his pueri (see note to line 7). The right-hand side of the letter is rather abraded and lines ii.12-14 present problems of reading and interpretation which we have not been able to solve satisfactorily. If our suggestions are on the right lines, Super is saying that he has difficulty in procuring the clothing which his pueri may need in readiness for a transfer (?).
The hand is a good, regular cursive which uses two different forms of d (lines i.1, 4) and l (line i.3) as well as a very idiosyncratic u, which is almost a flat dash (line 4); c occurs in two forms, one like p (line 1), the other the more usual form (e.g. line 4).


'Clodius Super to his Cerialis, greetings. I was pleased that our friend Valentinus on his return from Gaul has duly approved the clothing. Through him I greet you and ask that you send me the things which I need for the use of my boys, that is, six sagaciae, n saga, seven palliola, six (?) tunics, which you well know that I cannot properly get hold of here, since we are ... ready (?) for the boys' transfer (?). May you fare well, my dearest lord and brother, and ... (Back) To Flavius Cerialis, prefect, from Clodius Super, centurion. '


1. The name has been quoted as Claudius or Cloudius Super (VRR II, 41) but the first surviving letter is much more easily read as o. Clodius and Modius would be possible restorations but the former is more common and much easier to reconcile with the traces on the back. We have found no other evidence for this man in the tablets and it is impossible to read the nomen as Curtius (for Curtius Super see 213).

3. The restoration of the very common cognomen Valentinus (cf. perhaps 187.i.2) seems inescapable. n for n(ostrum) is surmounted by a horizontal stroke, as elsewhere, and it may be preceded and followed by medial dots (cf. 248.ii.note). Gallia: the reading is not in doubt even though g is lacking its tail. Apart from the reference to Rome in 283.4 and another possible reference to Gaul in 154.12 (see note), this is the only mention in the tablets of a known place-name outside Britain.

6-8. ea quae ... opus sunt: for opus as predicative, agreeing with the nominative (in this case quae), see OLD, s.v. opus 13b and in particular the reference there to Quadrigarius, Hist.36, res quae militibus opus sunt, ligna, aquam, pabulum. ussibus: as often the original geminate is retained after a long vowel, see Tab.Vindol.I, p.73, 309.i.3 note (cf. Bowman and Thomas (1987), 141). puerorum: it is very improbable that Super is referring to his own sons and the number of separate kinds of cloak required in batches of six and seven reinforces this. puer can mean "boy" in a colloquial sense among coevals, see Apuleius, Met.3.5, heus, pueri, quam maribus animis ... dormientes adgrediamur, cf. Catullus, 12.9, and note the use of the Greek equivalent _________ to refer to soldiers in Polybius 6.35.8. More commonly, however, it means "slaves" (see OLD, s.v.and e.g. Cicero, Att.3.7.1) and we suggest that this is the appropriate meaning here (cf. also 260.7). This is also probably the meaning at O.Bu Njem 86.2-4 (cf. p.36), trasmisi a<t> te domine item per puros (l. pueros) tuuos gura duua semis (compare the editor's comment on ________ in O.Claud. 151). Clodius Super is probably a centurion, but the numbers of garments involved are not appropriate to the members of a century and a centurion might well have several slaves, see CIL 3.8143 = IMS 2.325. It is perhaps worth noting that Cato, Agr.59 includes tunicam and saga among the clothing to be provided for agricultural slaves and that one of the categories of clothing (including saga and tunicas) specified at Digest 34.2.23 is familiarica (i.e. suitable for slaves).

8-10. sagacias: there is no serious doubt about the reading and the word also occurs in 521.2 and 184.ii.20, cf. Tab.Vindol.I, p.74. It evidently refers to some kind of a military cloak, as do the words sagum and palliolum. The precise differences between these different kinds of cloak are so unclear that we see no point in trying to translate the words. saga: the two letters after sex are sa but the reading thereafter is very uncertain; as the traces might suit b we have wondered whether to read sab[ana (linen cloths), but the word is probably too long to leave enough space for a numeral; the same objection would apply to the reading sexs ab[ollas. se]x: there remains only the bottom of a stroke sloping down from left to right which, by its position, ought to be the last letter in the line. If this is so, the restoration of se]x suits the trace far better than the ends of the other numbers up to 10.

11-14. Our reading and interpretation of this passage is offered very tentatively and should not conceal the difficulties in the readings at the beginnings of lines 11 and 12, and in line 13.

11. quae: q has all but disappeared and it is not clear whether the apparent sloping stroke is in fact ink; if so, it is made differently from q elsewhere in this text. We think the reading of uae probable but the ligature of ua is unexpected. scis certe: the order is unusual, but see Seneca, Contr. 10.5.2, scis certe quam tristem illum emeris (and cf. Seneca, Ep. 24.16). Palaeographically it would be equally possible to read per te, but we have not been able to reconstruct a satisfactory sense along these lines. hic: hoc is also a possible reading but we think hic preferable and it gives better sense. no[n: the writing at the end of the line is abraded. The reading we have adopted is compatible with, but not compelled by, the traces.

12. rite: the reading is difficult but we do not think it possible to read saepe, which we have also considered; sepe (cf. O.Wdi Fawkhir 2.9-(= CEL 74), sepius for saepius) is even harder. For the sense in which we understand rite see OLD, s.v.3. impetrare: cf. 269.3. simus: see note to line 13.

13. nona.cusi: this is a major crux. The reading of non is certain but nonanis quoted by A.R.Birley (1991a), 18 and implying a connection with a unit numbered ninth, is impossible since us is certain; although nonanus might be just possible as a reading, we cannot see how it could be construed. In addition, between us and etiam there is a very clear vertical stroke which, if it is ink as it appears to be, can only be read as i. This points to an adjective or participle ending -usi, to be taken with simus. It is, however, a major difficulty that the word order cum simus non followed by a participle or adjective is under most circumstances unacceptable; we should expect cum non simus, plus participle, or cum non (participle) simus. Even if we could accept the eccentric word-order the passage would still be difficult to explain. The letter after non resembles a and that before us most resembles c, but we cannot suggest a suitable word with these letters. We have considered the possibility of reading excusi and, since we do not see how the participle of excudo could make sense in this context, taking it as intended for excussi. However, this poses problems of both reading and interpretation: x is not easy to read and e is very difficult (as noted above, the letter looks most like a). Neither OLD nor LS suggests a suitable meaning but TLL V.2 1314 includes promptus among the synonyms for excussus. If the mark before etiam is, despite appearances, dirt, we might just be able to read aptus (though p is not easy and t is very hard). This would necessitate reading sim rather than simus in line 12 (the marks at the end could also be dirt rather than ink), but the sense conveyed would be the same. Non liquet. ad eo[rum: a is certain, d followed by e possible; o is a mere trace which could be anything.

14. translationem: for the use of translatus in reference to the movement of personnel see e.g. RMR 63.ii.8, 64.ii.22, 25. No doubt translatio could also refer to the transport of clothing but we have not been able to find it attested in this sense, though transfero is well enough attested for transporting things from one place to another (OLD, s.v. 1a). ualeas: the last three letters are severely abraded. uale mi (cf. 242.ii.2-3 note, 247.2) is not impossible.

15. This line and the two following are indented to the width of half the column; for a comparable layout in a Greek letter cf. P.Herm.Rees (= Turner (1987), 70).

16-17. The ends of both lines are very abraded. In line 16 the first word does not look like karissime but the reading is plausible if it began with c. We might then have et followed by the beginning of another superlative (but felicis- looks too short).

20. The centurial sign looks clear on the photograph and the original does not suggest that the mark is dirt rather than ink. If Clodius Super is a centurion, it might be thought surprising that in line 1he uses the term frater in addressing the prefect Cerialis; he could easily have been a legionary centurion appointed ex equite Romano, however, and he would then be of the same social status as Cerialis (see E.Birley (1988), 189-205, citing e.g. ILS 2656, CPE 625-9, Dobson (1972)). There is very little documentary evidence for the language used in such contexts in military correspondence, see RMR, pp.348-9.

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