Tablet 655

description 99 x 45 mm. Plate 19.
Archaeological data. Location: SG/NE (intervallum road). Period: 3.
Part of a letter (or letters) survives, written on both sides of the leaf, with remains of six lines on each side. The leaf is broken off at the foot, though it is unclear whether any writing has been lost. It may or may not be complete at the top; if so, the letter must have begun on a previous diptych. The format is very unclear and it is uncertain which side was written first. We see no way of interpreting Side A other than to suppose that it is incomplete at the right, and by at least five letters and perhaps considerably more, i.e. at least two centimetres. If it were a right-hand column, Side B would have to be a left-hand column; furthermore, it would have to have had a margin at the left not only of the two centimetres which survive, but also an additional two centimetres (or more) to allow for the amount lost at the right on Side A. This, we think, is not credible and we therefore deduce that Side A began on the left-hand side of the tablet. In which case it either overlapped the central fold to quite a marked extent or it is a rare example of a letter written across the whole width of the diptych (cf. 292). There is an apparent notch in the right margin of Side A between lines 4 and 5. This is probably just a chance break in the wood; if it is a genuine notch, it must have come in the centre of the tablet (for which cf. 645). This still leaves a problem with regard to Side B, where the lines are more or less complete at the right and there is a margin of two centimetres at the left. All this gives the impression that this is a left-hand column, which is of course impossible if Side A is a left-hand column. Perhaps the writer wrote Side A first, possibly across the whole width of the tablet, then turned the tablet over and continued his letter in the right-hand half of Side B, either leaving the left-hand half (now lost) blank or writing the address there (perhaps again cf. 292).
The letter is written in the same hand as 346. It is also in the same hand as 656 and 657, and could be part of the same letter as one or both of these. We have considered and rejected the possibility that 655 joins either 656 or 657. The occurrence of recedere in 655.B.4-5 and 656.i.3 supports the idea that both tablets were concerned with the same subject; note also the occurrence of contibernium in both 656 and 657. Since both 346 and 657 send greetings to the same people, it is certain that at least two letters written by this same person have survived at Vindolanda. 346 was definitely sent to Vindolanda (there are traces of an address on the back), which makes it very unlikely that either side of 655 could have been a draft. The content would have been interesting had more survived; as it is, it is tantalisingly enigmatic.


apsistaṣ misi tibi seịụṇ[- n
liorum denariọrum du [- n
quae sigulas in cartas inṣẹ[- n
ges deṭ[.]ṛ[.]....s mịhi s.[ n
5 tanq̣uam utique mihi [
non sit g̣ratum .[.].[
. . . . . . . .


(A) you may stop(?) I have sent you separately(?) additional(?) denarii, which into individual wrappings as if at any rate were not pleasing to me
(B) my mistake(?) , whose help I am also(?) asking for(?) to no purpose. So please believe me that I retire thus so that my reputation is intact, which is the chief point


A.1. apsistaṣ (for absistas): apsistaṭ is also possible. seịụṇ[-: both and are problematical: u is made in a v-shaped form as opposed to the shallow bowl found in the rest of this letter (except perhaps in p̣rimu(m) in B.6); for the letter preceding we have also considered c, but the hasta is straight rather than curved, and so we think it more likely to be i with a marked serif to the right (as in sic, B.4, and elsewhere). If seịụṇ is the correct reading, we suggest restoring seịụṇ[ctim, which would suit the context, even though the word is only attested once, in [Tib.] 3.7.103.

A.2. liorum: the reading looks inescapable (hardly uorum, which in any case would be of little help). We tentatively suggest supplying a]|liorum, with the meaning suggested in the translation. If this is correct, there is no need for more than five letters to have been lost at the right in line 1 (cf. the introduction). At the right du[o milia would suit the grammar and the space available if our suggestion in the previous paragraph is right; but the amount is huge: 300 denarii is the largest amount we have noted elsewhere in the letters (343.13), though larger amounts occur in some of the accounts. We have also considered du[odena ‘twelve sets of denarii’. For the use of the neuter plural as a substantive TLL V 2251 quotes Manil.4.484, but whether it could be used with a dependent genitive ]liorum denariorum seems questionable. On the other hand, the use of duodena does suit the context in view of the occurrence of si(n)gulas in the next line: cf. the occurrence of the two words in the same sentence in Cic., leg.agr. 2.85, duodena discribit in singulos homines iugera.

A.3. quae: if du[o milia or du[odena is right (see the previous note), quae no doubt refers to milia or duodena. If the text should be restored differently, it could refer to the denarii (the neuter form denarium is well attested). sigulas: for the spelling cf. Adams (1995a), 93. inṣẹ[: if this is the correct reading, it would seem to point to the verb insero, though it is not altogether obvious how anything could be inserted into sheets of wrapping paper (when Martial 4.31.4 writes uolo te chartis inseruisse meis he is not using insero in a literal sense; nor does it seem at all likely in the context that we have a reference to entering something in writing). If we have only a few letters lost at the right (see the previous notes), the solution might be, as Adams has suggested, inse[ri co]|ges. Alternatively we could read inṭẹ[, suggesting a verb compounded with inter-. For wrapping money in papyrus see P.Oxy. XLIV 3189.7 and note. For the possibility that papyrus was available in North Britain at this period see Allason-Jones and Bishop (1988), 106.

A.4. After ges, deṭ[u]ṛ is quite a good reading. The line is badly damaged and we cannot suggest any plausible reconstruction of the sense at this point.

B.1. ṭ.ṃ: the slight trace favours ṭụṃ (presumably the end of a longer word), unless there were two letters between and . mea erratio: this could refer to the writer\'s wandering or to his being in error in some way. Since the whole context is unclear, we have no way of deciding. quẹṃ: the trace of the broken fourth lettter is indecisive and it might be just possible to read the third letter as i; but qua is impossible. The word therefore cannot refer back to erratio and must refer to a person or a masculine noun who/which has occurred in the preceding lines.

B.2. There is a horizontal surviving before optestọr which would suit e or t. If quem is the object of optestọr we cannot have m]ẹ or t]ẹ; e]ṭ is possible. We are reasonably confident of inuṭiḷiṭer after optestọr. optestor may have the meaning suggested in the translation; alternatively the phrase may mean "whom I call on as a witness in vain".

B.4. After the initial m, possible readings are a, e or i. The traces thereafter are much abraded and damaged. It might be possible to read mạx̣ịṃẹ mẹ, i.e. the writer is retiring especially for the reason given. Alternatively, and perhaps slightly easier palaeographically, would be mịṇịṃẹ mẹ with the opposite meaning. Should we take recedere to imply departure from his contibernium, cf. 656.i.3-4?

B.6. ṣim: the writer has looped the downstroke of s round and up so as to cut the diagonal; cf., e.g., the initial s in 657.back 2 and 645.20 note. At the end there is a flat dash over u, marking the abbreviation. For quod est primum cf. quod est principium in 299.1. This could of course be the start of a new sentence and need not be connected with what has gone before.

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