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TVII Tablet: 256
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Category: Correspondence of Cerialis


Four joining fragments of a diptych containing a letter to Cerialis from a certain Genialis. Although only ]auius survives of the sender's gentilicium and there are a number of gentilicia with this ending, we need hardly hesitate to supply [Fl]auius in our text. If this is correct, it is natural to suppose that the sender is identical with the Flavius Genialis of 217-24. There is some reason for uncertainty, however; the latter may have been prefect at Vindolanda in Period 2; the present text is from Period 3 and although we do not know where Genialis is writing from, it is most unlikely to have been Vindolanda. Furthermore, both elements of the name are very common. It is possible, however, that this is the same person writing during a posting elsewhere, subsequent to a period of duty at Vindolanda.

The right-sloping hand has proved particularly difficult to read and restore, partly because the ink is in places very faint and in others smeared; the latter feature is particularly troublesome. The writer also sometimes leaves sizeable gaps between words but he does this very inconsistently. The tablet is certainly broken at the foot, below line i.5, where at least one line is lost; the address on the back might have contained some 2-3 lines more than the one line preserved. The problem with the right-hand half is that it can be read and restored in such a way as to construe as a piece of Latin, but the sense produced is to say the least unexpected: Genialis appears to be admitting that he has behaved unacceptably towards someone and is afraid that he may have to suffer for it if his victim is released (or sent back) by Cerialis. It seems difficult to believe that a Roman prefect can have written in these terms (which would be a further argument for doubting the identity of the present Genialis with the recipient of 217-24).


n 1 [Fl]auius Genialis Ceriali suo
2 salutem
n 3 ex con.[..].[.]s[..]eos quod penes te
n 4 rem[ c.7 ].acio tibi ..t
n 5             Genito[r c.5 ].em si enim
6 ] traces?
. . . . . . . . .
n 1 mihi quia aliqua[n]do sor.[
n 2 de ill. feci eo adhuc per
n 3 siluolas repto tutior illo
n 4 futurus si remisseris
n 5 m2 uale domine
6 traces?
1 m1Flauio Ceriali
. . . . .


"Flavius Genialis to his Cerialis, greetings. ... because it is in your power to ... to you ... Genitor (?) ... For if ... to me, because I once (?) treated him in a niggardly fashion (?); for that reason I am still lingering in the thickets to be safer from him (?) if you release (?) him. (2nd hand) Farewell, my lord. (Back, 1st hand) To Flavius Cerialis ..."


i 1          For Flavius Genialis see the introduction.

i 3-5          Too much is missing in these lines for us to be able to restore what is lost with any confidence. All we offer are some suggestions for possible interpretations. At the start ex con is more probable than ex com; the trace following, if it is ink, is indecisive. There may also be traces of ink above this, which would have to be an interlinear addition. Following this the tops of two tall letters are visible, of which the first might well be i and the second seems most likely to be s; there may be no letter lost between them. We have considered the expressions ex consilio, ex continenti and ex consuetudine but we do not think it possible to fit any of them to the spaces and the traces remaining. We have also considered the possibility that we might have a place-name (Concangis is not too far from Vindolanda) but we are again unable to suggest anything which fits the traces and the spacing. After this eos looks virtually certain but is perhaps not a word by itself; if so, the only possibilities which occur to us are [m]eos and [r]eos. If nothing is lost between the tops of the two tall letters, m]is[i r]eos could be read but we cannot suggest anything for what precedes.

Line 4 might begin with rem as a word by itself, or we may have some form of remanere, a verb which is often found with penes; in view of remisseris in line ii.4, we have also thought, for example, of rem[issio est, "because it is in your power to release them/send them back". After the gap it is very difficult to read f, but we can think of no plausible alternative (so]lacio is not a possible reading) and facio is probably to be accepted. If we read m]is[i in line 3, facio no doubt belongs to a different sentence; alternatively we may have the common phrase [r]eos facio. At the end of the line t appears certain, but there is too much ink before it for the reading to be just tibi ut; tibi aut is possible (cf. below).

At the start of line 5 gen is a certain reading; only the feet of the following letters survive and ito is no more than consistent with the traces. It seems impossible to read anything other than a proper name in the present context but the case in which Genito[r- should be restored is unclear. A new sentence will have begun at si enim, with the previous sentence ending -em. A possible supplement would be Genito[rem equi]tem, although we cannot suggest how it would construe, and in such a broken context we cannot exclude the possibility that em is a 1st person verbal ending. If at the end of the previous line we read tibi aut (cf. above), we must supply Genito[ri; but we cannot suggest any coherent sense. We have also considered reading tibi aput; reos ... facio ... aput Genitorem makes very good sense and we could have iudi]cem to follow (cf. Suetonius, Tib. 8, reum maiestatis apud iudices fecit); but we cannot suggest how to fit in tibi or the quod-clause.

ii 1-2          The reading of the right-hand half of the first line is most uncertain; if do is right it seems inevitable that we should read aliqua[n]do but there is a lot of space in the lacuna for n alone and it may be that aliqua is a word on its own. The letter after do must be s or f; thereafter we do not attain certainty until we reach e in line 2. The letter before it is unlike d elsewhere in this text (cf. line ii.2, adhuc, line i.3, quod) and might be b, but we cannot suggest how the latter might construe. There is a space after this and before feci which suggests that the letters in between constitute a separate word, of which the two middle letters are clearly ll; it is not easy to read the initial letter as i but there seems to be no alternative; the final letter looks superficially like o but we believe that i could also be read. Because we can see no obvious way to make sense with de illo we very tentatively suggest reading sord[i/de illi feci. sordide is most uncertain but not inconsistent with the traces; for its use with facio cf. e.g. Quintilian, Decl. 345 (p.364, 30), si quid tu priuatus liberaliter fecisti, uniuersam ciuitatem uis facere sordide? Note that here, as often, sordide is used of a mean or ungenerous action, a sense which might fit the context we envisage in our letter. There is a mark following feci which might be interpunct, but it is rather elaborate for this and interpunct does not occur elsewhere in this text; however, it does not look like a letter. After this we prefer to read eo but o is smudged and et is not impossible.

ii 3-4          The reading here seems clear. The only doubt concerns p in repto but this is certainly preferable as a reading to the alternative recto and we do not see how the latter could be construed. We must take siluolas for siluulas (cf. paruolus/paruulus), a rare word but attested, e.g., in Columella 8.15.4. The difficulty lies in understanding what the writer is talking about (cf. introduction). For the phrase per siluolas repto see Adams (1994). For illo after tutior, Adams notes that tutus + ablative is unusual (cf. B.Alex. 1.3); illo as an adverb ("there") is possible. remisseris can mean either "send back" or "release"; for the geminate s see the references in 255.i.6-8 note.

ii 5          It is doubful whether the traces below domine are ink, but the closing greeting could well have continued in the lost portion.

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