Tablet 650

description

Inv.no.92.1187. 106 x 67 mm. Birley and Birley (2003), 435-7, Plate XXV. Plate 18.
Archaeological data. Location: N. Period: 2.
Preliminary edition in Birley and Birley (2003), which we refer to as ed.pr. What survives is the right-hand half of a diptych, complete at the foot and the right margin, containing the second column of a letter, with an address on the back. Traces at the left, described as the ends of lines of the first column in the ed.pr. (introduction and 4-9 note) are unlikely to be ink and we have not recorded them. The column is incomplete at the top (see 1 note). There are two tie-holes and two v-shaped notches at the right-hand side of the leaf.
The sender of the letter was a certain Ascanius (or less probably Aspanius), almost certainly a comes Augusti. It may have been sent to a person by the name of Mensor but we think it more likely that mensor was a rank or function: see further the discussion in the notes to the back. What little survives of the letter concerns a sum of money, followed by closing greetings, all written in the same hand.
The hand is a competent, right-sloping cursive. It uses interpunct more frequently than is normal in the Vindolanda tablets, even before and after monosyllables; on the use of interpunct see Tab.Vindol.I, pp. 68-9, II, pp. 56-7, Adams (2003), 00. As remarked in the ed.pr., t can be written in such a way as to be scarcely distinguishable from s; note also the curved ending to m in 6 and the tiny bow in d in 5.

edition

ii:
. . . . . . . .
traces n
ut · rẹmịṭtaṭ · meos · denariọs n
c̣ụṃ .aṣsic̣... c̣ịtra n n
conscienṭiam · praefec̣ti n
5 sui · saluta · Verecunḍaṃ n
et Sanctum · Ḷọ..um · Capito-
ṇem
nn· et · omnes · ciues · et n n
amẹcos · cum quịbus · opto n n
bene ualeas · .[ ] uacat(?) n n
Back:
. . . . . . . .
traces
mensori n
ab Asc̣anio comịṭi Aug(usti) n

translation

' so that he might send my money without the knowledge of his prefect. Greet Verecunda and Sanctus, , Capito and all my fellow-countrymen and friends, with whom I pray that you are in good health. (Back) , suveyor(?), from Ascanius, comes Augusti. '

commentary

ii.1. One or two descenders of this line are visible. Despite the comment in the ed.pr., it is quite possible that this was the first line of this column.

ii.2. ut: the ed.pr. refers to a "secondary diagonal stroke across the u", but this is not ink. rẹmịṭtaṭ: the foot of the last letter is damaged and rẹmịṭtaṣ is also possible, as noted in the ed.pr. (cf. also the introduction above). sui in line 5 predisposes in favour of the third person if there is no break in the sentence or subject-matter.

ii.3. The ed.pr. read a numeral at the start of this line, c̣clx̣x̣x̣ịṣ, but we do not think this reading possible. The line might indeed begin cl (the "rather faint" c before this referred to in the ed.pr. is not ink), but we cannot then suggest what followed. We think c̣ụṃ the most likely reading of the first part of the line, though we would not rule out ẹụṃ, with the cross-bar lost in the break. It is quite possible for denarios to be used without qualification, meaning simply "money", as in 343.9, 15, etc. After c̣ụṃ (or ẹụṃ) there is a small loop, too small and low in the line for o ; easiest is the foot of c; then aṣsic̣ or perhaps aṣsig̣, with two or three more letters before c̣ịtra, the last of which looks most like i. OLD records cassiculus meaning a small net and it may be just possible to read this in the form c̣aṣsic̣ḷịṣ.

ii.3-4. c̣ịtra conscienṭiam: the first c has mostly disappeared, with only the loop at the foot surviving, and the t in conscienṭiam is hard to read, as the cross-bar has entirely disappeared (or was perhaps never written). We need also to assume that the marks after c̣ịtra in line 3 are not ink. Nonetheless, the reading is, we think, secure. For the expression cf. Digest 29.2.46 (Africanus), sin autem alius argueretur citra conscientiam eius "but if anyone else is proved (to have done so) without his (the heir\'s) knowledge".

ii.5. Verecunḍaṃ: Verecund(u)m [sic], ed.pr. Although little remains of d and the final letter is somewhat abraded, the reading is not in doubt (accepted in A.R.Birley (2002), 100). Perhaps the addressee\'s wife, since she is placed first in the list. If so, the other names may be those of their children.

ii.6. Sanctum: on the name see the comment in ed.pr. ed.pr. read the next name Lupum. We do not think this possible but cannot offer a satisfactory reading. The l is not quite certain and is made differently from l in saluta in line 5; long i would be possible. It is difficult to read the next letter as anything other than o; then one further letter before -cum, -sum, -tum or -lum. There is too much ink for just u between this and the initial l; (and insufficient for Longum). Ḷọp̣ṣum is a possible reading (Lopsius is attested as a gentilicium) or Ḷọc̣ṭum (for Locatum), but we do not find either convincing. It might be possible to read Ḷọḷḷum.

ii.6-7. Capito|ṇem: on the name see the note in the ed.pr.

ii.7. omnes ciues: ciues is well-attested with the meaning "fellow-countrymen", "compatriots" (see TLL III 1224.75ff.), although it is normally used with the possessive, ciues meos, nostros. Cf. Cicero, Fin. 5.67, exsistit illud, ut amici, ut fratres, ut propinqui, ut affines, ut ciues, ut omnes denique … propter se expetendi sunt. Cf. A.R.Birley (2002), 100, who remarks "by \'citizens\' Ascanius no doubt meant \'Batavian citizens\' rather than \'Roman citizens\' " ("Roman citizens" was suggested in the ed.pr.).

ii.8. amẹcos: we would not rule out altogether the normal spelling, but the third letter looks much more like e than i. This spelling is found occasionally, see TLL I 1902.38, CIL XIII 3430; cf. Adams (2003), §3.

ii.8-9. cum quịbus: the broken letter after qu does not look like i and u before s is no more than a shallow curve, but the reading is unavoidable. On cum quibus see CEL 106.4-6n. (commenting on 346.ii.4-5). The whole expression, cum quibus opto bene ualeas, recurs in 353.

ii.9. The ed.pr. reads ua]le after the lacuna, but we do not think these marks are likely to be ink. On the other hand, there is a trace of ink just before the lacuna, which could well be the start of ụ[ale. uale is added after the parallel expression in 353 (where see ii.3 note).

Back.2. At least one descender is visible from a line above mensori. In the ed.pr. it is assumed that Mensor is a cognomen and that the traces in the preceding line belong to the gentilicium. Although the name of the addressee on the back of a letter does sometimes run into a second line, this is normally because the gentilicium and part of the cognomen stood in the first line, with the cognomen completed in the second; we have so far had no certain example in which the whole of the gentilicium occurred in the first line and the whole of the cognomen in the second. This strengthens us in our belief that it is more likely that in this text the whole of the name of the addressee was in the line above and that mensor is not a name but a function (accepted in A.R.Birley (1999), 203, corrigenda to p. 45). mensores of auxiliary cohorts are listed among the principales by von Domaszewski (1967), 58-9 (cf. CIL 13.6538); Vegetius 2.7, mensores qui castris ad podismum demetiuntur loca, in quibus tentoria milites figant, uel hospitia in ciuitatibus praestant.

Back.3. Written on a slant, upwards from the bottom left corner, as usual. There is no reason to think the hand is different from the one responsible for the letter on the front. Asc̣anio: in ed.pr. the reading Aspanio is preferred, though it is noted that Ascanio is also an acceptable reading. The name Ascanius occurs in 183.3, where Ascanio rather than Aspanio is virtually certain, which inclines us to prefer Ascanio here (accepted in Birley, loc.cit. in back 2 note); cf. also 610.5 with note. 183 is an account, presumably written at Vindolanda and 650 is a letter written from elsewhere; but the two texts could still refer to the same man, since the writer of 650 could have been temporarily outposted (cf. 154). For Ascanius we may compare CIL XII 4625 (Narbonensis) and XVI 95 (a praetorian diploma of 148), and especially T.Licinius Ascanius in RIB I 14 (undated), which is from London and could be the same man. After this the ed.pr. read Comiciano; A.R.Birley, loc.cit. in back 2. note (cf. id. (2002), 86 and 100), subsequently accepted our suggestion that the writing might be better taken as cornic(u)lario. However, we are now confident that the last three letters are aug, a reading which is based on a scan that is much clearer there than the original photograph. Of the preceding word comịṭi only t is open to doubt, but the form is not at all impossible in a cursively written address. We suggest, therefore, that we have a reference to a comes Augusti. For the ablative ending in -i we may compare patri in 645.4, with note. On the face of it this seems to be a person of rather exalted status for the Vindolanda letters, but it is perhaps not impossible in the period before the term comes Augusti became formalised into what was more or less a rank. TLL III 1776-7 cites examples from the first and second centuries of the description of a man as comes imperatoris or Augusti, or of a named emperor, and Millar (1997), 117, shows that it could be attached to senators or equites and that "it could be and originally was a reference to a specific journey or expedition in the past, during which a man was in the emperor\'s entourage". We might imagine that one would not necessarily have to be a very well-known or prominent individual to be able to make such a claim. We do not know enough to justify speculation about the connection of Ascanius with an emperor. We merely note (1) that this letter will have come from somewhere other than Vindolanda (see the remarks above on Ascanius and the reference to RIB I 14), and (2) that it is assigned to Period 2, i.e. before c. AD 100 and therefore too early to justify any possible connection with the presence of Hadrian in Britain; for our caveat about the archaeological dating of the tablets see above Introduction, p. 00.

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