Tablet 661

description 92 x 37 mm. Plate 21.
Archaeological data. Location: SG/NE (intervallum road). Period: 3.
A fragment with six lines on each side, all in the same competent, markedly right-sloping, hand. The side we have described as the back has the ending of a letter. It is not clear whether we have a right-hand column on the front and a left-hand on the back or vice versa. On both sides the left margin of the writing is preserved. There may be traces of the end of a line of the left-hand column to the left of line 4 of the front; on the other hand there could be ink traces to the left of line 6 of the back. Part of a tie-hole may be preserved at the right on the front; if so, this was a right-hand column. It seems likely that the writer began with a two-column letter on the front and then completed the letter on the back (cf., e.g., 643).
The tablet may be incomplete at top and bottom, though no writing is likely to have been lost at the foot on the back and perhaps also on the front. At the right it is virtually complete on both sides. The ink is in places very faint and sometimes completely abraded.
The front seems to be concerned with a gift which the writer is giving as a surprise to his/her domina. This may be just a term of respect (dominus is so used frequently in the tablets) or it may mean that the writer is a servant speaking of his/her mistress. It is noteworthy that the recipient was unable to read (lines 4-5). While perfectly possible if the recipient were a man, this makes even better sense if the letter is being sent to a woman, as we think very probable; see further Back.6 note. There is no indication of whether the writer was a man or a woman.


. . . . . . . .
.ab....ụ.d dọminae munụs n
deṃ c̣urare autem debebiṣ n
ut niḷ qui tibi ep̣isṭụḷam n
5meam leg̣et ịḷḷud domina[e] n
indịcet belḷe muḍetur
. . . . . . . .


' which I may present as a gift(?) to the mistress. But you(?) will have to take care that the person who reads my letter to you does not indicate that in any way to the mistress. (Back) Greet from me both Dioscurides(?) and both(?) our . Farewell, my dearest sister(?). '


2. Before dọminae, q̣ụọd may be possible, not quid. The o of dominae is hard to read because of a break in the tablet. We are reasonably confident of munụs after dominae.

3. The end of the line is unclear; debebiṭ is also a possible reading.

4. niḷ: it is difficult to read the third letter as and the word seems out of position if we have understood the sentence correctly; but we see no other possible reading as the rest of the line is secure.

5. ịḷḷud: the reading is reasonably certain. domina[e: if this is a right-hand column (see introduction), e must have abraded away at the edge. 6. indịcet: the second i has a more pronounced serif than elsewhere. We suppose a new sentence began after indicet, but we are very unsure as to how to understand the text at this point. The reading is almost certainly belḷemuḍetur (less probably belḷemuḅetur). One solution we have envisaged is to read u[i]detur, since there is a slight space (though no visible ink) between u and detur. We would then suppose Bellem to be a personal name (rather than a reference to the flower). We have not found the name Bellis attested, though both Bellus and Bellius are known; cf. also 642.back 2 note. But this would mean assuming the dependent construction followed uidetur and, presumably, taking uidetur as impersonal ‚Äòit seems that B ...‚Äô. An alternative solution, suggested to us by Adams, is to take mudetur as for mundetur (such an omission of n poses no problem, cf. Adams (1995), 93, (2003), 00), with the adverb belle preceding, meaning, e.g., ‚Äòlet it be properly cleaned‚Äô. This too is not entirely satisfactory: we should have to take mu(n)detur as passive jussive subjunctive and it is far from clear what object is to be cleaned (hardly the writing-tablet containing the letter; perhaps the gift mentioned in line 2?). It is perhaps worth adding that belle mi uidetur, which would make good sense, is not a possible reading: it is certain that nothing was written between m and u.

Back.1. Several descenders survive.

Back.2. dup̣unḍi[: we are reasonably confident of the reading (for the more usual spelling dupond-). The traces thereafter are minimal.

Back.3. At the start nịḷ c̣ụro ḍe looks possible, but we cannot then suggest how the sentence might have construed. Perhaps better is nịḷ c̣ụro followed by ṣed beginning a new clause. c̣eṭer.[: if the dotted letters have been read correctly, presumably c̣eṭerụ[m. c̣ep̣erọ or c̣ep̣erụ[nt would make better sense but are less easy to read. 4. After ilḷo there may have been a blank space with ẹṭ following; then -ịdem is likely to have been the end of a personal name, presumably Greek. It may be just possible to read Ḍịọsc̣ụṛịdem, though initial d is particularly difficult.

Back.5. After ṣaluṭa the faint traces permit ẹṭ but what follows is difficult. am is certain and we must have feminines because of -as nostras to follow. Since amicas is impossible, we think amḅạṣ has to be read, even though is not easy and even harder. Thereafter we tentatively suggest ụẹṛṇas, a word which has not hitherto occurred in the Vindolanda material. We have also considered p̣ụẹṛas.

Back.6. It is not likely that the hand changed after nostras. After mi the ink is very smudged and unclear, but we think the traces can be reconciled with the reading suggested. The first letter has an apparent cross-bar, which would point to frater, but rater thereafter looks impossible and the second letter is more easily read as o. ḳạṛịṣs[i]ṃạ is far from certain but perhaps just compatible with the traces. For the expression uale mi soror see 635.3-4 note.

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