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Tablet 121

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Vindolanda Inventory No. 85.119.a

Introduction

              A small fragment, complete at left and foot. It contains the bottom and left part of a drawing (unless this is mere idle doodling).  Another drawing in the tablets is to be found in Inv.no.87.616 = VRR II, Plate XVIII. That tablet contains no writing, whereas the present tablet preserves a number of letters. It appears to begin with three upright strokes (rather like the numeral iii); we then have some letters of which the first two are certainly be, and it is likely that ll follows, perhaps in turn followed by i. After this there seem to be three more uprights before the letter r, probably followed by e. There is then a small space before some more marks which do not look like letters; at this point the tablet breaks off. As can be seen from the plate, all the uprights have long arching strokes projecting up from their tops and crossing one another (an attempt to draw a tent?). Below this, considerably inset from the left margin, we have two or three large letters of which the first is c or g. In line 1 b is written in the cursive form, whereas e and r are in the normal capital form. In VRR II, 38 it is suggested that we should read belli.por in the first line and cla in the second; and it is further suggested that this may be "another Virgilian effort, recalling Aeneid 1.294, claudentur Belli portae. The drawing could be a doodle intended to represent the Gates of War". It is difficult, however, to reconcile the traces after belli with the reading suggested; it seems more likely that the first three strokes, which are connected to the drawing, are not letters, and the reading thereafter is almost certainly re. If we are to pursue this idea further (and, as is pointed out in VRR, the tablet was found in close proximity to 118), perhaps a more likely Virgilian quotation is Aeneid 12.567, causam belli regna ipsa Latini. The first line might read belli re and the first letter in the second line could well be g.  It is perhaps just possible that what is written thereafter is a botched attempt to write na, after which the writer abandoned his efforts.