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Tablet 292

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Vindolanda Inventory No. 85.042


This letter and that of Octavius to Candidus (343) are the only examples in which more than one diptych survives (cf. 282). The layout and organisation of the text of Severa's letter is even more curious and idiosyncratic than that of Octavius. The first double leaf (a) contains the beginning of the letter. This, like the other leaves, is probably complete at the foot and both margins but is incomplete at the top. It is unique in that the text of the letter, instead of being written in the usual two columns, is written in one very broad column across the whole width of the double leaf, a format to which we can quote no parallel elsewhere in the collection; and enough survives of the opening for us to be confident that this was written in the same format. In addition, while it is usual for the first line of the letter proper to commence further to the left than the following lines, the extent to which line 2 is set out to the left in comparison with lines 3-4 is remarkable. On the second double leaf (b), which must have been placed below (a) when the letter was completed and folded, the scribe has reverted to the two-column format. Here, too, there must be one or two lines missing at the beginning of each column. Despite the fact that the main text of the letter continues on another leaf (c), the closing greeting, comparable to that in 291 and also clearly written by Severa in her own hand (cf. also 293), is on the back of the right-hand half of (b). This may well be because the back of (c) was occupied by the address. Of the third leaf (c), only the right-hand half survives. We must assume, therefore, that we have lost whatever was on the left-hand side and a line or two from the top of the leaf. The last line on (c) suggests that nothing is lost between it and Severa's closure on the back of the right-hand half of (b); this is the only certain example in the tablets of a closure written on the back of a leaf (but cf. 303, 305). The back of (c) contains, as we would expect, the address to Lepidina. All the leaves contain remains of notches and tie-holes in the usual places. The text is personal and intimate in tone. Severa has asked her husband Brocchus for permission to visit Lepidina. He has apparently agreed and Severa intends to make the visit, perhaps saying that there are essential matters which she does not want to deal with by correspondence (see a.i.4 note). She speaks of her intention to remain or lodge at a place called Briga (see c.v.2, note), before sending greetings to Cerialis. Unlike the birthday invitation (291), this letter gives a clear indication of the regularity of correspondence between Severa and Lepidina. The hand in which this letter is written is one of at least three which appear in letters emanating from the household of Brocchus and Severa. This hand is also found in 246 (the opening of a letter from Brocchus), probably 245, and perhaps 403, 404 and 406. It is a rather elegant, squarish hand which shows occasional use of ligature and apex (a.i.3, 4, b.ii.4). Noteworthy are the long i, two forms of l (e.g. c.v.3) and u written as a shallow curve (c.v.2, cf. b.ii.4).

n 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
n 2 salutem
n 3 ego soror sicut tecum locuta fueram et promiseram
n 4 ut peterem a Brocchó et uenirem at te peti
5 4            et res[po]ndit mihi <i>ta corde semp[er li]citum uná
. . . . . . . .
1 traces
2 quomodocumque possim
n 3 at te peruenire sunt enim
n 4 4            necessariá quaedam qua[e]
. . . . . . . .
1 traces?
2 rem meum epistulas meas
3 accipies quibus scies quid
4 4            sim actura haec nobis
. . . . . . . .
1 traces
n 2 .ra eram et Brigae mansura
n 3 Cerialem tuum a me saluta
4 uacat
n n 1 m2         [ual]e m.. soror
n n 2 karissima et anima
n n 3 ma desideratissima
n n 4 4            uacat traces
1 m1Sulpiciae Lepidi-
n 2 nae Ceria[li]s traces?
n 3 a Seuera B[rocchi


" ... greetings. Just as I had spoken with you, sister, and promised that I would ask Brocchus and would come to you, I asked him and he gave me the following reply, that it was always readily (?) permitted to me, together with .... to come to you in whatever way I can. For there are certain essential things which .... you will receive my letters by which you will know what I am going to do .... I was ... and will remain at Briga. Greet your Cerialis from me. (Back, 2nd hand) Farewell my sister, my dearest and most longed-for soul. (1st hand) To Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of Cerialis, from Severa, wife of Brocchus (?)."