Tablet 639

description 104 x 50 mm. Plate 14.
Archaeological data. Location: SG (rampart edge). Period: ?.
The right-hand side of a diptych in several joining fragments, containing most of the second column of a letter with an address on the back. There are also three tiny fragments, two of which have traces of letters. The tablet is complete at top and right, and probably partially complete at the foot. At the left only a single trace of the left-hand column survives.
It is possible that the letter was sent by and to a woman. If we have correctly restored the start of line 3 (see the note), this would suit a statement by Brocchus' wife Severa. In which case we might think of a letter from her to Cerialis' wife, Lepidina, as 291-293 and 635. However, we do not find it possible to reconcile the writing on the back with the reading Sulpiciae Lepidinae, though it is quite possible that the name there was that of a woman, see the note. It is still possible that the letter is from Severa but that on this occasion she was writing to the wife of a prefect who preceded or followed Cerialis at Vindolanda (cf. also the notes to lines i.1 and 5). There is, however, no compelling reason why the letter should have been sent by Severa or indeed why the writer should have been a woman.
The handwriting does not help to solve the problem. The body of the letter is not in the same hand as 292 and is not likely to be the work of the first hand in 291: many letter-forms are quite similar but o, for example, is much larger, and the writer is more fond of ligature than the writer of 291; the general effect too, though competent, is much less elegant. It may be the same hand as that responsible for 623, a letter from Brocchus. The hand on the back looks quite similar to the hand or hands responsible for the backs of 291 and 292, but these address scripts no doubt tended to be largely standardised. Of the second hand in line 5 too little survives for useful comparison with examples of Severa's hand from other letters.
The subject of the letter may be concerned with a visit; cf. 292, which speaks of a projected visit by Severa to Lepidina, and 291 and 622, which both contain invitations to visit.


Pubḷịcum p̣rimo mane ịam n n
..... ] ne quam moram Broc-
n ....]am cum ad me ueneriṭ n n
].ẹ [[...]] [`].ḍetuịṣ´ ịaṇtaturum n
5 ].roṭẹ[ n
(?) ....ịạẹ Pạ..[.]... n
. . . . . . . .


'I will send(?) Publicus early in the morning so that I do not cause(?) Brocchus any delay. When he(?) comes to me will have breakfast. '


i.1. Of column i only a trace of the end of the first line survives. This is compatible with e, i.e. the line may have ended sua]e.

ii.1. Pubḷịcum: assuming the fragments fit flush togther, as they appear to do, pub is a clear reading. The next two letters look most like ḷạ, for which we have no suggestion. We think, therefore, that the apparent diagonal of a is not ink and that what we have is i with a serif. We think it most likely that this is a personal name, perhaps of a slave, and that a new sentence begins at this point, supplying, e.g., mittam at the start of the next line (cf. the translation and the next note). Alternatively publicum, whether a name or an adjective, could have been the end of a sentence from the left-hand column with a new sentence beginning with primo. A Publicus probably occurs as the sender of a letter in 320.

ii.1-3. For ịam: equally possible is ṭam, which could be picked up by quam in the following line, perhaps with an adverb between them (we could also read c̣am or p̣am but these do not suggest any plausible words in the context). However, we think the most promising way to understand these lines is to take ne on its own, rather than as the end of a longer word, and supply Broc[cho faci]am (as indicated in the translation); the phrase moram facio is well attested, see TLL VIII 1470.28ff.

ii.3. A new sentence may have begun with cum. ueneriṭ: it would be equally possible to read ueneriṣ. If ueneriṭ is correct, the subject could be either Brocchus or Publicus.

ii.4. There seems to be some deletion and certainly there has been as addition over the line, but we cannot elucidate the meaning. ].ḍetuiṣ: if the reading is right we should probably articulate ]. ḍe tuiṣ. ịaṇtaturum: for the form see OLD s.v. iento, TLL s.v. ieiento. We are reasonably confident of the reading and that the vertical stroke before aṇtaturum is to be taken as a long i with a hook at the top and not as q from the interlinear addition. The word fits the context with its reference to the early morning, but it remains unclear how the sentence is to be construed. If we read ueneriṣ in line 3 we might suppose something like spero] ṭẹ ... ịaṇtaturum here; but this will not do if, as seems probable, the addressee is female. Perhaps the writer is saying that provision must be made for Publicus or Brocchus to have breakfast. It is not clear whether the traces visible after ịaṇtaturum are ink or dirt.

ii.5. The trace before ro could be o and we have considered reading s]ọroṛ ẹ[t (cf. 292.b.back), but it seems impossible to read the penultimate letter as r. If we just ignore the trace at the start, we could think of spe]ro te [; cf. Severa’s greeting in 291.11.

Back. The letters are vastly elongated and not one can be read with certainty. A.R.Birley (2001b), 21, suggests the reading Variae Priscini, taking this to refer to Varia, the wife of Priscinus (for whom see 295-298 and 636-638). We would agree that riae followed by pr is one way to interpret the traces, but there is too much ink for just ua before riae and we cannot reconcile the traces after pr with iscini. The first letter in the line looks most like a or r, perhaps followed by i or u. What follows ịạẹ seems to begin pạ and the tops of the letters surviving at the end of the line would fit ae. In other words we seem to have the gentilicium and cognomen of a woman. Pacata and Paterna are attested in the tablets (see Tab.Vindol.II, Index II), but neither seems to fit the traces in 639.

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