Tablet 663

description

Inv.no.93.1491. 180 x 50 mm. Plate 21.
Archaeological data. Location: SG (bonfire site). Period: 3.
The greater part of a complete diptych survives, containing a letter which refers to the writer's recovery from something, though it is unclear whether from feelings of grief or from an illness, and which goes on to refer to "your Priscinus". This seems to us likely to mean that the letter was written to Priscinus' wife (cf. also i.4 note), and we think it probable that this is the Priscinus already known from 295-298 and 636-638; A.R.Birley (2001b), 21, (2002), 153 takes a similar view. The name of Priscinus' wife is not known (cf. 639.back note). We do not know whether the writer was a man or a woman (but cf. i.2-3 note).
The top of the tablet is broken away and with it at least two lines have been lost in column i (containing the names of sender and recipient and the salutation, and the beginning of the letter proper). Both the left and the right edges of the diptych are partially preserved, but it is uncertain whether it is complete at the foot (see ii.5 note). There may be faint traces of an address on the back of column ii but these traces may well not be ink. There are also five small scraps, some of which have traces of writing.
There is a wide margin of some four centimetres at the left of the left-hand column and the end-letters in this column all have extremely elongated final strokes, extending right across into the right-hand column. The hand is distinctive and is clearly the work of a highly competent writer. It slopes slightly to the right and employs ligature more than is usual in the tablets. r can be written in close to the capital form (especially in Priscino, ii.4-5). There is one instance of an apex (ii.5) and several probable occurrences of interpunct.

edition

i:
. . . . . . . .
].[ n
.]ẹ.ịna fecit qua · me n n
.] .cunde · consolarịs n n
sicut mater facẹret n
5hunc enim · adfec-
tum
n n · animus meus n
. . . . . . . .
ii:
. . . . . . . .
diebus · am.[ ..... n
ram et comṃ[ode n
conụaḷẹscebam · ṭu [ n
quid agas cum Pris-
5cinó
nn tuo quam n n
. . . . . . . .

translation

' has made(?), with which you agreeably(?) comfort me just as a mother would do. For my mind this sympathy(?) within [a few(?)] days I had and I was beginning to recover nicely. As to you(?), what you are doing with your Priscinus '

commentary

i.1. Only the foot of a single long descender survives.

i.2. What was written before fecit is obscured by dirt, apart from the last two letters. f]ẹṃịna is perhaps possible but not domina.

i.2-3. qua ... consolarịs: if the writer is being consoled for his/her grief over something, epistula would be a possible antecedent for qua. It is hard to see, however, how this could fit in the same clause as fecit. There is an obvious attraction in taking the word before fecit as a feminine noun which is the antecedent of qua, but we cannot suggest anything suitable. If the writer is recovering from an illness or injury (cf. ii.1 note), one might think of a medical remedy of some sort as the object of fecit, with the word before it the subject of the verb, e.g. f]ẹṃịna fecit, meaning perhaps that the writer\'s wife had made this remedy which had been recommended by the addressee. But this does not fit well with the verb consolarịs.

i.3. .].cunde: the obvious reading is ]ịcunde (i often has a pronounced serif in this hand), but neither al]ịcunde nor s]ịcunde is suitable. It is possible to read ]ẹcunde, but we are not happy with the sense produced by either f]ẹcunde or s]ẹcunde (f]acunde cannot be read). We think it possible to defend the reading i]ụcunde (with the meaning assumed in the translation): u with a marked serif linking to the right is found elsewhere in this hand, but we would expect to see something of the base and left-hand side of the letter.

i.4. sicut mater faceret may suggest that the subject of consolaris was feminine but does not of course prove this.

i.5. The shape of the initial h in this line is noteworthy, with a very tall first stroke beginning in between s and i of sicut in the preceding line.

i.5-6. adfec|tum: the word has too wide a range of meanings to resolve the problem discussed in i.2-3 note. For example TLL I 1185 quotes several instances from Celsus of adfectus used in the sense of morbus. We owe to Rea the suggestion that it may refer to the addressee\'s show of concern (rather than to the writer\'s trouble), with a possible meaning such as "Indeed, my own heart [welcomed?] this sympathy (of yours)".

ii.1. am.[: the stroke after am could be read in various ways. amị[ is possible and amị[se]ram referring to the loss of an affliction or similar would suit the sense; but the restoration is too short. amp̣[lexus e]ram could also be read and would fill the space neatly, but we cannot suggest a suitable object. Rea suggests amḅ[ulaue]ram. The sense is excellent if we suppose the writer to be recovering from some illness or injury (e.g. "within a few days I had begun to walk"); it may be just possible to read amḅ[, if we suppose that the bow of b was very tiny.

ii.2-3. comṃ[ode: for the restoration cf. Cicero, Fam. 16.11.1, fac ... ut quam commodissime conualescas. Here comṃ[odissime is too long but comṃ[ode is somewhat short and we should perhaps restore comṃ[odius. ṭu[: nothing may have been written after tu (as assumed in the translation) or there may have been one or at most two letters lost. ṭu[m is possible but hardly seems to be the right word to mark this transition to a new topic. With tu one might suppose the writer to have meant "But enough about me - how have you been getting on?".

ii.4. The bow of the d in quid is no more than a dot.

ii.4-5. Priscino: see the introduction.

ii.5. The sentence must have continued with a main clause introducing the indirect question quid agas (e.g. quam [celerrime mihi scribe). Either, therefore, the tablet is incomplete at the foot or the letter continued on a second diptych. As stated in the introduction, it is impossible to be sure whether or not there are traces of an address on the back.

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