Tablet 656

description 184 x 33 mm. Plate 19.
Archaeological data. Location: SG (bonfire site). Period: 3.
The complete width of a diptych is preserved containing two columns of a letter. It is incomplete at the top; it is not clear whether any writing has been lost at the foot. There is a margin of some two centimetres at the left. The unusual feature is that, while the back of the first column is blank (as we should expect), on the back of the second column is what appears to be the end of the letter (see Back note). Certainly what is written there is not part of the address. 643 may have a similar format, see the introduction there.
The competent, markedly right-sloping hand is the same as that of 346, 655 and 657. Note in particular the form of n: the first stroke, written as a diagonal, often goes well below the line, and the second stroke can start almost halfway down this first stroke instead of from the top. Although 656 may well be part of the same letter as 657, and perhaps also 655, it did not join either and was certainly written on a separate tablet. 292 is a good example of a letter written on more than one tablet.
As with 655, the content would have been interesting if more of it had been preserved.


. . . . . . . .
ac tamen uolo liqueat
tibi me nec a contibeṛ-
recedere nec a scọ-
n n nịṣị c̣..ịụs rationem n n
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .
ịllud ịn..c̣.... domi-
n uidit autem me n
potest fieri apud auri-
n aut ap̣ud argen-
n et hạec̣ est p̣ṛ. n
. . . . . . . .
n Back:
. . . . . . . .
ṣịme uacat


'And yet I want it to be clear to you that I am withdrawing neither from the mess nor from the club unless that to the chief. But he saw me, perhaps(?), at the goldsmiths' or the silversmiths' and this is '


i.4. recedere: the same verb occurs in 655.B.4-5.

i.4-5. a scọla: traces of the ends of the left-hand column can be seen on the right-hand fragment of the tablet and we think there is a slight trace of o visible there. For scholae in a military context see Richmond (1943), 149ff, von Domaszewski (1967), 71, Smith (1972), 497, Rea's note to CPR V 13.4 (AD 396). The scholae are often interpreted (e.g. Richmond, loc.cit.) as the buildings which constitute the headquarters or club-houses of the military collegia and most of the evidence for them (much of it in the form of inscriptions of the scholae pricipalium) is Severan or later. This reference is therefore noteworthy as an early piece of evidence and the phrasing suggests that the writer is using the the term to refer to the social institution rather than a building. The word does not appear in the indexes of RIB I or II.

i.5. After la the next letter is n followed by some seven or eight abraded letters; nịṣị is probable but not certain. After this we have either two or three letters before, probably, ịụs, the first being most like c or p. It would be possible to read c̣ụịụs, c̣ịṭịụs or p̣ọṭịụs.

ii.1. Only the bottom halves of the letters survive. After ịn the next letter would appear to be d, although the bowl is much larger than elsewhere. The next stroke is indeterminate but could be foot of i, then either c or e. After this r is the obvious reading, but a is possible, since it has a similar curved diagonal in aurifices and aut below. If we read ịnḍịc̣ạ this would point to some part of the verb indico. We have considered indicares, indicasse and indicasti, of which the least unsatisfactory is indicasse. If the general idea is right, we suggest the writer is referring to the reporting of something to the dominus or more probably (as Rea points out) the opposite, assuming a negative has been lost before illud.

ii.2. There is a mark over the last letter of domino but we do not think this is an apex; there are no other apices in this text. After it there is an appreciable gap, perhaps intended to mark the end of a sentence. We assume that the writer is using dominus to refer to his superior officer.

ii.3. We have adopted the explanation of potest fieri suggested by Adams, namely that it is parenthetical: see Adams (2003), §6.

ii.4-5. argen|tarịos: the horizontal of t occasionally slopes down to the right in this hand but this is a particularly noteworthy example. Although the word more commonly means "banker", the meaning "silversmith" is clearly more appropriate here. TLL II 516.67ff. quotes several instances of its use in this meaning in association (as here) with aurifex, e.g. HA, Alex.Sev. 24.5, argentariorum, aurificum et ceterarum artium uectigal pulcherrimum instituit. See also Adams (2003), 00. The goldsmiths and silversmiths were perhaps operating in London, cf. 658.a.4. hạec̣: the second letter is hard to read as a; we have assumed its second diagonal has been written horizontally. The letters after est could be read in various ways. p̣ṛị- looks possible (cf. 655.B.6?) but it would be equally possible to read ịṃ-.

Back. In line 2 we probably have the end of karissime. At least one descender is visible from line 1, which from its position could be the tail of the r, i.e. ka]ṛ[is]|ṣime. This seems to indicate that what survives is the end of the closing greeting to the letter. What is certain is that the writing here is not part of the expected address. It may be in the same hand as the rest of the letter.

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