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Tablet 256

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Vindolanda Inventory No. 85.055


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 ..."