Vindolanda Tablets Online Tablets Exhibition Reference Help

Vindolanda Tablets Online Database - Print-friendly tablets display

TVII Tablet: 295
Search Result: 1
Title: Letter from Oppius Niger to Priscinus
Category: Correspondence of Priscinus


A complete letter from Oppius Niger, who must surely be a unit commander, to Priscinus. Niger appears to be telling Priscinus that he (Niger) had sent on their way from Bremetennacum (Ribchester) the two soldiers of the First Cohort of Tungrians, whom Priscinus had despatched with letters to the governor. Since the ed. pr. we have accumulated further evidence which necessitates discussion of individuals in the tablets with the cognomen Niger. The following texts are relevant: (1) the present letter from Oppius Niger to Priscinus; (2) 249, the beginning only of a letter from Oppius Niger to Cerialis; (3) 248, a letter from Niger (no gentilicium given) and Brocchus to Cerialis; (4) 465, the beginning only of a letter from Valerius Niger to an unidentified addressee. It is immediately evident that we must surely have the same Oppius Niger in (1) and (2), writing to two different people at Vindolanda, one certainly and the other probably a prefect, perhaps at different periods. Our interpretation of 295 suggests that Oppius Niger was himself stationed at Bremetennacum when he wrote it; that need not necessarily imply that he was at Bremetennacum when he wrote 249. Is Niger of 248 the same Oppius Niger? The evidence of the hands in 248 and 295 is crucial, though the main texts of both were written by scribes rather than their authors. If we were confident that the same scribe was at work in both that would be a strong argument in favour of identity. In fact, although the hands look superficially similar we cannot convince ourselves that they are the same, for there are some important technical differences (see the introduction to the ed. pr.). Nor is there any conclusive evidence in the second hands, in 295 that of Niger and in 248 that of either Niger or Brocchus. On balance it seems to us probable that Niger of 248 is not Oppius Niger of 295 and 249. It should be noted that, even if he were, we should not draw any conclusion about his location (nor, as a consequence, about that of his co-author Brocchus, presumably Aelius Brocchus, on which see 292.c.v.2 note). Niger of 248 may, then, be identical with Valerius Niger of 465 (both letters are attributed to Period 3) but we know nothing more about him.


n 1 Oppius Niger Priscino [suo
2 s[alutem
n n 3 Crispum et .e[ c.8 ]s ex coh(orte)
n 4 · i · Tungrorum quos cum
5 epistulis ad consularem n(ostrum)
6 miseras a Bremetennaco
n 7 ].[..].[.]..[ c.3
n 8 .[.].[.] Kal(endis) F[eb]r[
n 9 m2 uale domine
10 frater
n 1 traces of 2 lines


"Oppius Niger to his Priscinus, greetings. Crispus and ... from the 1st cohort of Tungrians, whom you had sent with letters to our governor, [I have straightaway sent on (?)] from Bremetennacum to ... on 1 February. (2nd hand) Farewell, my lord and brother."


1          In the ed. pr. we considered the possibility that the gentilicium of the author should be read as Occius but we now regard Oppius as certain in view of 249.1.

3          Harvey (1985) suggests re[liquo]s. Although he is correct to observe that r in this hand does not always have an exaggerated descender, we think it impossible to read it here and it does not resemble the r in consularem (line 5) which Harvey compares. We prefer the suggestion that we have a name beginning with Pe- or perhaps Te- (cf. Tertius, 343.ii.21). We may well have a short name followed by milite]s, cf. 300.i.3-4.

3-4          For the cohors i Tungrorum see 154.1-2 and above, pp.22-3.

7          The sense required seems clear. It might be possible to restore stati]m [p]r[a]em[isi (cf. CEL, note ad loc.), but the traces are very ambiguous.

8          ].[.].[.]aum Kal( ) F[ebr: CEL 98. In CEL 98 Cugusi mistakenly quotes the reading of the ed. pr. as ]rum. We could in fact envisage reading ]erum or ]orum, which we would now regard as likely to be the end of a place-name rather than the end of an ordinal number, since these numbers are never fully written out in dates (see the note in the ed. pr.). A more attractive alternative is ].dum and we think it may be possible to read a[d] L[i]ndum (Lincoln), although the use of ad with a place-name does not occur elsewhere in the tablets (see Tab.Vindol.I, p.72). We are now more confident that the month-name was February and take the last trace in the line as the foot of r rather than the top of e in the line below.

9          For the form of e at the end of uale cf. now 300.ii.12 note. The reading is unquestionably correct (cf. the note to the ed. pr.).

Back 1          There seem to be sufficient traces for a gentilicium followed by Priscino, which is what we would expect, and for a second line, but the traces are too slight for us to offer a reading.

© Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, The British Museum and other copyright holders.