Tablet 301

description 182 x 76 mm. Plates XXIII, XXV, VRR II, Plate VI.
A complete diptych with notches in the left- and right-hand edges. The whole of the message is on the left-hand portion and the right contains only a brief closure. It is notable that the beginning of the message in line 3 is hardly at all indented (cf. 350). The address is on the back of the right-hand portion and is written in fairly large but normal cursive, unlike the spindly script normally employed in addresses (for another example see 352.back). It shows that the addressee was a slave of Genialis (see back 8 note); it is likely that the author of the letter was also a slave (see back 11 note). The closure is written in the same hand as the rest of the text, but more rapidly, and we assume it to be the hand of Severus himself, which is competent and fairly fast, with some word division.
The subject of the letter seems to be some payment for an item or items connected with the Saturnalia; the syntax is peculiarly compressed and our failure to understand the first word of the message makes it infuriatingly obscure. In view of the importance of the Saturnalia for people of servile status the subject of the letter is particularly appropriate. There is no other reference in the Vindolanda texts to this festival; for other religious observances see 190, 265, cf. 261 and perhaps 466.


'Severus to his Candidus, greetings. Regarding the ... for the Saturnalia, I ask you, brother, to see to them at a price of 4 or six asses and radishes to the value of not less than _ denarius. Farewell, brother. (Back) To Candidus, slave of Genialis the prefect, from Severus, slave of ... '


1. Apart from the final s only the bottoms of letters in the name of the author survive but the reading is guaranteed by line on the back where the name is clear. Candido: this common cognomen occurs at Vindolanda in several other texts (343.i.1, 180.24, 146.2, 148.1, 181.3, 183.4, 312.ii.8) but in no case is it probable that the person bearing it was a slave.

3. sọuxtum saturnalicium: the interpretation of the first word is particularly problematical. The last five letters seem absolutely certain; the only possible alternative would be e instead of the first u (cf. ii.7, uale) but this is very unlikely. If it is an attempt at sextum it can only be a mistake, but this seems very implausible. Before u we can hardly have anything but o and the first letter looks like a clear s; but souxtum suggests no attested Latin word nor a botched attempt at any word we can find used in connection with the Saturnalia (cf. Macrobius, Sat. 1.10.20). In fact, we find it difficult to see how it can be a botched attempt at any attested Latin word at all. If, like radices, it is a plant or the product of a plant (see note to line 5), we wonder whether it might be intended for sucus/succus (medicine, dye, perfume ((?)), cf. OLD, s.v.2) for which RMLW cites the form suxus. For saturnalicium in a military context see RMR 68.ii.8, iii.7, recording deductions from soldiers' pay for the saturnalicium kastrense. For the significance of the Saturnalia for slaves see Macrobius, loc.cit. For a request for items for festivities cf. O.Wdi Fawkhir 3.(= CEL 75), in die festo mi opus est.

4. The symbol at the beginning of this line must be either asses or sextarii. It has the slanting vertical common to both symbols (see e.g. 186.6, 8 and 190.c.19, 193.3, 4) and it also has a stroke at the top which suggests sextarii; but the horizontal tick to the left of the vertical, which does not run through it, suggests asses and in a context with a clear reference to denarii this is perhaps preferable. Furthermore (sextarii) would need a genitive of the noun to which it referred, which souxtum saturnalicium (whatever the explanation) can hardly be; see further note to line 5. It is curious that the writer has used the numeral iiii but written out the word sexs.

5. We take the noun + saturnalicium in line 3 to be the direct object of explices and (asses) iiii aut sexs to be an accusative of price (cf. Tab.Vindol.I, p.93). For this verb in Vindolanda texts, with and without a financial implication, see 343.i.4, with the notes ad loc. and in Bowman, Thomas and Adams (1990), 316.margin 2-3. radices: we have considered the possibility that this should be understood as part of a verb, radico; LS cites the active form as post-classical with the meaning "take root" but we cannot see how this could make sense. The only alternative seems to be to take it as plural of radix; this might mean "radishes" (OLD, s.v. 1c, cf. André (1981), 16-7); alternatively in this context it might be understood as the radix Britannica which had medicinal properties, see Pliny, NH 25.20-1 and Davies (1989), 219 and Plate 10.7. Note, however, the special connection of the Saturnalia with crops and plants (Macrobius, loc.cit. in note to line 3).

5-6. ne minus: see OLD, ne 3.

7. The ligature of u and a is noteworthy, as is the form of e.

8-9. For Candidus see note to line 1. Genialis is probably Flavius Genialis, for whose correspondence see 217-24 and cf. 256.i.l and note. The reading of line 9 is complicated by the presence of dirt and a knot in the wood. There are traces of four or five large letters at the right of the leaf and the writing which we have transcribed as lines and 11 is more or less directly to the left of them. The traces are compatible with the reading given and the size of the letters suggests that this is Genialis' title; this is important since it is the strongest evidence we have for the fact that he was a prefect (cf. 220). The address seems to follow the same pattern as that of 347.back, where the name of the addressee is not followed by seruo but the name of the sender is, see note ad loc. and note to line 11, below.

11. The reading of this line is uncertain and is complicated by the presence of dirt and a knot in the wood. The first letter of the name is probably p or c, the second a or r. Parati is perhaps compatible with the traces. It is not possible to read Pacati, a name which occurs in one of the stilus tablets (, see VRR II, 62), cf. Pacata in 353.ii.1. ṣẹṛụọ: the reading is very difficult and it is difficult to tell what is ink and what is dirt, especially in the middle. There may be an apex over the last letter. We have considered as an alternative cọṛṇic̣lạṛịo and, palaeographically, this reading could be defended. It is certain, however, that Candidus is a slave (see the preceding note) and we think it inconceivable that a cornicularius would address a slave with the word frater (lines 4 and 7).

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