Tablet 628

description 175 x 78 mm. Plate 12. Bowman and Thomas (1996), no. 3 and Plate X.
Archaeological data. Location: SG (bonfire site). Period: 3.
The diptych is mostly complete, but the writing is badly abraded in places. The whole of the left-hand side is preserved and not more than two lines have been lost at the top of the right-hand section. At the right both tie-holes and notches can still be clearly seen; at the left we have the upper set but the lower set has been lost in a break. There has been some differential shrinkage between the various fragments. The tablet is written in a rather fine, right-sloping hand, with a marked difference in the size of the letters. There is very little use of ligature. The pronounced serif sometimes found at the top of i is noteworthy. There seem to be two clear cases of the use of interpunct (i.6 and 8) as well as other possible instances (see i.1 note), and four or five instances of the apex mark, on which cf. Tab.Vindol. II, pp. 56-61, and Adams (1995a), 95-8. It is probable, though not certain, that the same hand wrote the body of the letter, the closing greeting, and the address (but see ii.3 note). The tablet contains a letter to Cerialis from a decurion named Masc(u)lus. A decurion of this name is also found in 586. In addition, 505, which preserves a fragment from the greeting of a letter has, on the back, the name of the sender. We read this as a Ma...lo dec(urione) and commented that the name might be Masculus (cf. 367). We now feel confident that the correct reading is ´Maṣc̣ụlo and we think it very likely that the hand is the same as the one which records the name of the sender on the back of 628, and that both letters come from the same decurion, even though the name is spelt Masclo here but Masculo in 505. Since such a small sample survives, it is hard to say whether the hand or hands which wrote the closing greetings on the front of 505 are the same as the hand or hands responsible for 628. Points of special interest are the use of rex to address Cerialis, the reference to the shortage of beer, and the form habunt. The text is also conclusive proof that the cohors VIIII Batauorum was equitate.


' Masclus to Cerialis his king, greeting. Please, my lord, give instructions as to what you want us to have done tomorrow. Are we to return with the standard to (the shrine at?) the crossroads all together or every other one (i.e. half) of us(?) ... most fortunate and be well-disposed towards me. Farewell. My fellow-soldiers have no beer. Please order some to be sent. (Back)To Flavius Cerialis, prefect, from Masclus, decurion. '


i.1. Masclus: see the introduction. For the syncope see Adams (1995a), 92. regi suọ: the title rex is not found elsewhere in the tablets used of Cerialis or of anyone else. For the Batavians being commanded by nobles of the regia stirps see Tacitus, Hist. 4.12-13. It is more likely, however, that here the word means simply "patron", a use which is well attested (cf. OLD s.v. 8). A good parallel, which is almost contemporary and which also comes from a military context, is to be found in P.Mich. VIII 472 = CEL 147, a letter from Claudius Tiberianus to Longino Prisco domin[o] et regi suo (cf. Cugusi's note ad loc.). There may be interpunct after regi and after uelis in 3. Neither, however, is as clear as the interpuncts we have marked in i.6 and 8. There may well have been an apex over o in suọ, now lost.

i.3. Cf. 234.i.3. The use here of the perfect infinitive with reference to the future is interesting, see Adams (2003), §6. On uolo + perfect infinitive see Leumann, Hofmann and Szantyr (1965), II 351-2.

i.4. rogó: for the paratactic use of rogo, also found in line ii.6, see Adams (1995a), 117-8. The apex mark in domine is over a short vowel, for which see Adams (1995a), 97-8.

i.4-5. At the end of line 4, after domine, we have four (and no more) letters, of which the second is r, and the third is very probably a. The traces at the start of 5 are uncertain (the long descender does not belong to this line but is the tail of r from rogo in the line above). The obvious reading for what follows is cias, but we cannot suggest a possible verb which would make sense in the context. Since praecipias is particularly appropriate (see Adams (2003), §7) and prae fits well with what can be seen in 4, we think the solution must be to read p̣ias instead of c̣ias in 5, despite the palaeographical difficulty in reading the letter before ias as p.

i.5. utrumṇẹ: the traces of ṇẹ are very slight. This can either be taken as starting a new sentence or as introducing an indirect question after praecipias. For a direct question beginning with utrumne see OLD s.v. utrum 1b. See further Adams (2003), §6.

i.6. cum uexsilló: on the spelling see Adams (1995a), 90-1. uexillum has not occurred hitherto in the tablets but there are references to a uex(s)illarius in 181.15, 535.2 (= CEL 131) and 670.ii.10. Outposted detachments are attested in 154. On uexillum see Breeze (1989), 133-42 (= Breeze and Dobson (1993), 78-89), esp. pp. 136 and 138.

i.6-8. For the contrast between omnis and alternus TLL I 1754.58 gives references to Columella 6.24.4 and 27.13; in both instances Columella is speaking of things which take place either every year, omnibus annis, or every other year, alternis (sc. annis). Here the idea is presumably a contrast between the detachment returning en bloc or returning in two separate details.

i.7. rediemus: on this form of the future see Adams (2003), §5.

i.8. coṃp̣ị ṭum: in our original publication in Britannia we were unable to suggest a convincing reading at this point, but we now feel confident that coṃp̣ị ṭum is to be read. This suits the traces very well. We could make a stop after alterni and take coṃp̣ị ṭum with what follows, but we think it more likely that it belongs with what precedes, as suggested in the translation (cf. also the interpunct after it which may point to a sense break at this point). It would have to be understood as accusative after rediemus without a preposition; see Adams (2003), 00. The word means basically a place where several roads meet, but by extension it can be used of a shrine erected at such a place (cf. OLD and TLL s.v.), and it may have this meaning here. Note also CIL I 1853, which refers to a castellum qui [sic] est ad compitum.

ii.1-2. These lines are slightly inset in comparison with the lines following. Whether the closing greeting is in a different hand from the body of the letter, as is usual but not universal in the Vindolanda material, is unclear. On the whole we think it more likely that the whole letter was written by the same hand, except perhaps for uạle in line 3 (see below). The tablet is broken through line 1, but if anything had been written after felicisṣiṃ[u] ṣ we should expect to see the feet of the letters. We no doubt have a phrase such as opto domine sis felicissimus (cf. 264). The addition of sis mihi propitius is without parallel in the tablets (unless it occurs in 706.margin, where see the note) and we have noticed nothing comparable in CEL, but it fits well with the writer's use of rex at the start of the letter; cf. Adams (2003), §7.

ii.3. More cursively written than the rest of the letter and perhaps added by the writer in his own hand.

ii.4-6. These lines, which are certainly in the same hand as the left-hand side of the letter, have obviously been added as a PS.

ii.4. commilitones: see 318.2 and note ad loc.; cf. also 615.B.1-2, and perhaps 721. ceruesam: a Gallic (or more generally Celtic) word for beer; it occurs also in 186,190 and 482, and a ceruesarius is attested in 182.14 and 581.4(?), 6, 17. It was made from a type of wheat called bracis or braces, see 343.ii.25 note and cf. 595.i.3 note. On the etymology of bracis see Adams (2003) and cf. DML, s.v. For the suggestion that it should be identified as spelt see Pearce (2002). See also 649.back 2 note.

ii.5. habunt: on the form see Adams (1995a), 102-3, commenting on the renuntium documents; also Adams (2003), §5.

Back.3. a Masclo dec(urione): see the introduction. The line is not written on the slant as is more normal in the Vindolanda material.

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