Tablet 670

description 133 x 81 mm. Plates 22.
Archaeological data. Location: LXXX. Period: 6A laminate or top of Period 6 ditch.
Several fragments survive of a letter from Martius to Victor, which may well be mostly complete. In addition to what is transcribed below, there is a tiny scrap with traces of writing on one side only. The tablet is unusual in three respects, date, script and format.
Date: it was found in a much later stratum than most of the other tablets, a stratum which Robin Birley would date to the last quarter of the second century (cf. A.R.Birley (2002), 158). See also Introduction, pp. 11.
Script: it is written in a hand unlike any others from Vindolanda, a hand which is very cursive and at times distorts the letter-forms quite markedly, e.g. esse in i.3. d starts with a downward, wavy stroke which turns to form the bottom of the loop before a diagonal stroke cuts back through the first stroke (e.g. ii.4 dabis); e is often in the shape of a narrow v; g in i.7 has a remarkably long tail; l descends well below the line; n is written in two strokes, the lower one from top to bottom and the upper one from bottom to top; they are often not well joined and can look like a diagonal with a kink in the middle (e.g. i.8, dịligenter); similarly s, except that the kink is in the opposite direction (e.g. ẹis in i.9); p is usually made with a loop; u can be a shallow curve, high up, in ligature with the letter following (in agatụr, ii.1, it is appreciably reduced). Throughout there is considerable use of ligature, far more than is normal in the tablets; e.g. in frạter (i.5) every letter is linked to the ones before and after. Particularly notable ligatures are al in salutẹ[m (i.2), dt in quod ṭẹ (i.3), ha in dịṣtrahant (i.9). Such a script would be possible at the date to which the other tablets belong (ca. AD 90-120), but fits at least as well with the later date suggested by the archaeological evidence: it has some similarity to the variant of Old Roman Cursive to which Cencetti applied the word "strisciato" (cf. Tab.Vindol.I, p. 59); Cencetti considered this form to have come into common use around the middle of the second century, although he identified an early example in a papyrus of AD 103.
Format: the letter is written on two-thirds of one side (A) and two-thirds of the other side (B) of a single piece of wood; the other third of (A) was used for the address. We describe A as the front and B as the back. No notches or tie-holes are visible. Although there are several other letters written on both sides of the leaf, there is no other example (so far as we can tell) of a comparable format in the Vindolanda tablets. The tablet is best envisaged as consisting of three vertical sections, I, II and III. The first half of the letter, (i) below, was written on the front of I + II. The tablet was then turned over and the second half of the letter, (ii) below, was written on the back of III + II. The tablet was then folded in a concertina fashion so that the front of III and the back of I were on the outside. The address was written on the front of III. See the diagram below. Thus when the letter was received and opened, the front of I + II, (i) below, would have been revealed first; the recipient would then have turned the whole tablet over and read (ii), III back + II back, all in the order intended. Why the sender should have used such a strange format it is impossible to tell. There is a further oddity in that there are some three lines of faded writing, which we are unable to read, on the back of I. We wonder whether this is from an earlier text which was partially washed off.
The first column is apparently concerned with the appointment of the addressee as agent in a private legal matter, perhaps to do with an inheritance (see the notes). The most notable feature of the second column is the reference to a hitherto unknown place Bremesio, see ii.3-4 note.
Since we have the final salutations in ii.7ff. but not the final greeting, it is probable that the tablet is almost but not quite complete at the foot. The other three sides are partially preserved.


' Martius to Victor, his most dear brother, greetings. Know that all is well with me and I wish that the same may be true for you. I am making you agent, brother, the relatives(?) of my(?) father carefully nor they sell(?) anything(?) for them and write to me, I ask, what is being done about those matters when you have the chance. If you do not have the chance (to write) from Bremesio(?), give (your letter) at Cataractonium to Durmius(?) the veteran or(?) to Harius we had been. [Greet?] Proculus and (his?) family and your (?) daughter and Valentinus the uexillarius and -anus (Address) [Deliver] at Coria(?) to Victor, cavalryman, armourer, from Martius, clerk (?). '


A.i.1. The name Martius has not previously occurred in the tablets. It is worth remarking that RIB 937 (Old Penrith, undated) records a stone set up by a man named Martius for his father (cf. A.i.4-5 note) who was an emeritus of the ala Petriana (the ala is attested in several tablets, see 700.back note). A Victor is attested in 180, 182, 608 and perhaps 394 and 694, but all these are from earlier levels.

A.i.2. karissimo: the word does not occur elsewhere in a salutation in the tablets, but cf. CEL 77 and 141.

A.i.3-4. We are confident of the reading even though little remains of c̣ị in sc̣ịas and eṣṣẹ is so cursively written that it could be read quite differently. The only point where a different reading seems at all likely is if tu ... facias were substituted for te ... facere: the letter after fac could well be i, but the letter following has the characteristic curved top-stroke of r. There is a very similar expression at the start of another Vindolanda letter, 311.i.3-5: ut scias me recte ualere quod te inuicem fecisse cupio. It is something of an epistolary clich√© to begin a letter with scias (or equivalent): see Cugusi (1983), 79, and CEL I, p. 24. For recte esse see OLD s.v. recte 9 and Cugusi (1983), 273; and for the whole phrase scias ... esse cf. CEL 142.47-48 (= P.Mich. VIII 468), scias domo perb[e]ne omnia recte esse. On the whole of this sentence see now Adams (2002), 00.

A.i.4-5. The p of p̣rocuṛ[a]tọrem lacks the loop which is found elsewhere in p in this hand. For facio procuratorem cf. TLL X.2 1576.20. It is most probable that procurator here is being used of a private legal capacity, for which see TLL X.2 1573ff.; cf. especially the procurator ex testamento appointed by a soldier in CPL 221 (perhaps also CPL 225). One wonders whether the two men really were brothers and that frater is not in this letter a mere term of affection; but this cannot be the case if patṛiṣ ṃei is right in 7. Perhaps Martius wishes to make Victor his procurator in order to prevent relatives of his father getting their hands on his father\'s property which he has inherited.

A.i.6. The other side proves that there is a line almost wholly missing at this point (corresponding to the right-hand half of ii.6 plus the back of I).

A.i.7. There is little doubt that the first four letters which survive in this line are cogn and that the next but one is t; thus c̣ognạṭ- or c̣ognịṭ- seems inevitable. The reading, however, seems to be c̣ognụṭ, for which we have no suggestion. If we are to read c̣ognạṭ or c̣ognịṭ, we have to assume that the first stroke of the apparent u is really a descender from a letter in the (lost) line above. A reference to cognati patris would make good sense with procurator in a private legal capacity; see the note to lines 4-5 above. After patṛiṣ, is a possibility, i.e. ṃ[ei; we have also considered ṇ[ostri, but there would not be room to fit it all on this line and the trace before dịligenter in 8 does not look like i.

A.i.7-9. Although not much can have been lost at left and right in these lines, we are unable to suggest any connected sense.

A.i.8. After neqụe (which looks reasonably secure) it might be possible to read ag̣ạṃ[, but we do not see how the sentence can have run.

A.i.9. ụịd before ẹis dịṣtrahant looks possible, and q before it is perhaps also possible. For distraho meaning "sell" see OLD s.v.4 and TLL V.1 1542-3.

B.ii.1. At the start eṣ would be an easier reading, but eṭ is possible and would seem to offer a more probable construction.

B.ii.1ff. The way this passage is to be understood is discussed in Adams (2003), §6, whose suggestions (in particular that peto is to be taken as parenthetical and scribis as for the imperative) we have followed in our translation. The translation offered in A.R.Birley (2002), 159 is based on earlier readings of ours, which we have now improved after inspection of the original.

B.ii.2-3. We had previously suggested op̣ṭ[i]ọnem here in both lines, but inspection of the original made it clear that there was a larger gap between the fragments. We are reasonably confident that occasionem was the word used in both places. For the phrase per occasionem see OLD s.v. occasio 1b. scrịbis: we cannot read scribes (future for imperative, as dabis in line 4); on the use of the present indicative for the imperative see Adams (2003), 00.

B.ii.3-4. Brẹme|ṣione: we earlier read Brẹmeṇio and took this to refer to the fort Bremenium at High Rochester. The first letter in line 4 could indeed be n, though s is more probable, but the letters following io can hardly be read as anything other than ne in this hand; this would seem to make the reading Brẹmeṣione (or less probably Brẹmeṇione) inevitable. We might think of Bremesio (or Bremenio) as a hitherto unattested alternative name for Bremenium (other place-names in Britain beginning Brem- are known; see PNRB s.vv.), but we do not want a reference here to High Rochester, if we have read the back correctly, since it is north of Coria (Corbridge). Our understanding is that the letter was sent to Victor at Corbridge who was on his way south to Catterick (Cataractonium). Bremesio therefore should be the name of a place on the route between Corbridge and Catterick. Prof. Malcolm Todd (per litt.) has suggested to us that Bremesio may have been the Roman name for Piercebridge, which was not previously known, and we find this suggestion attractive. On the Roman site there see Fitzpatrick and Scott (1999), 111-132; they state that there is no conclusive evidence for a fort or forts there in the second or earlier third centuries (p. 111) but that there is evidence for some military activity there in the mid-later second century (p. 114). The site would certainly have been of strategic importance.

B.ii.4. dabis is no doubt future for imperative, with the object "your letter" being understood.

B.ii.4-5. For other references to Cataractonium see Tab.Vindol.II, Index III s.v.

B.ii.5. RNGCL recognises a gentilicium Durmius, though Dụrṃ[io looks a little short for the lacuna. At the end of the line ụẹḷ may be possible. For other references to veterans in the tablets see 593.ii.2 note.

B.ii.6. Hario: if uel is right at the end of 5, this will be a complete name (rather than the end of one). Again, RNGCL recognises this as a gentilicium. We are also reminded of (H)arrius in Catullus 84.

B.ii.6-7. The trace after in is indeterminate; a possible supplement would be in c̣[uius centuria] fueramus.

B.ii.7. The lacuna is probably just enough to accommodate saluta. It seems clear that we are dealing with greetings at this point and are therefore near the end of the letter.

B.ii.7-9. If this tablet is rightly assigned to c. 175-200, Proculus and Valentinus mentioned here are not the same as those who occur in other tablets (for Proculus see 611.i.7 note and for Valentinus 255.3).

B.ii.8. After familiạṃ one expects tuam or eius. Presumably a female name followed at the end of the line; either niḍic̣em or niḍiṭem looks to be a good reading, suggesting a Greek name, but we have found nothing suitable.

B.ii.9. The trace after filiaṃ is indecisive; either ṭ[uam et or ẹ[ius et is possible. The presence of someone\'s daughter in a military environment is noteworthy; cf. 643.back.

B.ii.10. For other references to uexillarii in the tablets see Tab.Vindol.II, Index IV s.v. The name may end -c̣ianụm.

A.Address. It is probable that the address is all written in the same hand as the letter.

A.Address.1. The position of this line, in the top left-hand corner, shows that what we have here is the name of the place to which the letter is to be delivered (see Introduction, p. 00). Probably five letters have been written of which the first two are badly obscured by dirt; then ri is almost certain, followed by a damaged letter which suits s. Since what can be seen of the first two letters is compatible with co, we think it very probable that the place name is C̣ọriṣ (i.e. Corbridge, see 154.7 note). For other letters in the Vindolanda material addressed to Coria see 312 and the stilus tablet 87.722 with Tab.Vindol.II, p. 364. According to Breeze and Dobson (1985), 13 Corbridge was not reoccupied as a normal fort after the abandonment of the Antonine Wall, but military activity continued at the site. This would seem to be sufficient to justify supposing that a letter was addressed to Victor there. See further Bishop and Dore (1988), 137-9.

A.Address.3. eq(uiti) aṛṃ.[: there is no mark of abbreviation after eq. Clearly Victor belonged to an ala or a cohors equitata. A.R.Birley (2001b), 26, (2002), 158-9, tentatively suggests pr(aef)] eq a Mar[tio, but this is not possible: even if a Mar[tio could be read, there is no room at the end of 2 or the beginning of 3 to supply pr(aef). We are reasonably confident of the reading arm after eq. We think it most likely that we have a reference to the post of armorum custos (on which see von Domaszewki (1967), 55-6, Tab.Vindon., 61, with further bibliography). The title must have been abbreviated, though it is not certain how. Roger Tomlin has drawn our attention to ILS 2186 = Speidel (1965), No. 56, which lists among nomina turmae an AVR VICTOR ARM; he was undoubtedly the troop\'s armorum custos, so the text proves that in the right context arm was enough for identification. However, there is certainly something written after arm in our text. In the address of Tab.Vindon. 38 the title is abbreviated armoru(m) cus(todi) (cf. Tab.Vindon. 23). Here we think the reading aṛṃọṛc̣ may be possible, i.e. armor(um) c(ustodi).

A.Address.4. Written on the slant as usual for the name of the sender. The traces immediately after M]aṛṭio are badly abraded. We think them compatible with ḷị and suggest that Martius was a librarius. The word generally just means "clerk" but in the military context can refer to a principalis in the officium of the praefectus of an ala or a cohort, see von Domaszewski (1967), 56, 59.

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