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TVII Tablet: 344
Search Result: 1
Title: Letter to the governor (?) concerning mistreatment
Category: Miscellaneous correspondence

Commentary:

This text is written on the other side of two of the three leaves which contain an account of dispensations of wheat (180). For the physical characteristics of this leaf, the format and the question of which is the primary and which the secondary text see the introduction to 180. It is certain that both texts were written by the same person; compare the idiosyncratic form of f in lines i.3, 10 and ii.16 here and in 180.23 and 25. Note also the form of a with two descenders (line i.8, quia, ua-) and the g in uirgis and castigatum (line i.6) not unlike that in 174.2 (see note). Word division is often indicated. The reconstruction of this text involves the placing of some small fragments, details of which are discussed in the notes. The maximum line length, for purposes of restoration, is 26 letters (line 6), but there may be as few as 18 (line ii.15, where the writer does not go all the way to the edge). The text is repetitive and the word order is awkward (especially line i.7). The use of the other side for an account points to the conclusion that this was a draft which was never sent. The space after commississem (ii.19) suggests that we have the end of the substantive part of the text (though it lacks a closure); this is confirmed by the fact that the back of the first part of the account (180.1-15), which would have been the last of three faces used in writing the petition, is blank. It seems obvious, however, that there must have been something substantial before the first surviving line and this suggests that the draft was begun on another leaf which we do not have. The content is exceptionally interesting. The writer is appealing to someone in addressing whom he uses the term maiestatem (see i.4-5 note). This is surely unlikely to be anyone of lower status than the provincial governor, especially since he indicates that he has been unable to complain to the prefect of the unit and has perhaps failed to gain satisfaction from the beneficiarius or the centurions. It seems very unlikely that he is addressing the emperor. He asks that as an innocent man he should not be allowed to suffer beating as if he had committed some crime. The language in i.6-7 and ii.17-9 is ambiguous and could mean either that he has been punished and is asking for redress or that he was expecting to be punished and is asking for prevention, but on balance the former seems more probable. The whole tone of the appeal suggests that the author was a civilian and his description of himself as hominem trasmarinum, which may be intended to emphasise that he is not just a local Brittunculus (cf. 164.5), strongly supports this (cf. VRR II, 59). The reference to mercem (i.2), in combination with the account of wheat on the other side of the leaf, suggests that he is very likely to be a trader. In that case, the quality of the latinity (repetitive though it is) is worth emphasis, as is the fact that the text appears to contain no erasures. If numeri eius (ii.12) refers to the unit of his persecutor or assailant, it may be that he is complaining about being victimised by a member of the military and is even perhaps being detained in the fort. Centurions were certainly able to inflict flogging on other soldiers (cf. Tacitus, Ann. 1.23) and may well not have hesitated to extend such treatment to those outside the military; compare O.Flor. 2 in which a decurion writes to a curator praesidii, requesting the despatch of a civilian who had set fire to some reeds near the praesidium. The evidence for civilians, including traders, in contact with the military is very welcome and does not present a serious problem (see also 309, introduction, 343, introduction and for civilians in a legionary fabrica cf. ChLA X 409), but the hypothesis that the author had been flogged by a centurion may help to explain the puzzling fact that a civilian text, if that is indeed what it is, was deposited and found in the barrack-block within the fort. For another possible petition among the Vindolanda texts see 322 (cf. 257) and compare ChLA X 434 (with further references to comparable texts).

Text:

i
n n 1 eo magis me ca[ c.12
n n 2 d...[.]em mercem [ c.8
n n 3 r[.] uel effunder[ c.3 ]r[
n n n 4 [..]mine probo tuam maies-
n 5 [t]atem imploro ne patiaris me
n 6 [i]nnocentem uirgis cas[t]igatum
n n 7 esse et domine prou[.]. prae-
n 8 [fe]cto non potui queri quia ua-
n 9 [let]udini detinebatur
n 10 ques[tu]s sum beneficiario
ii
n 11 [ c.8 cen]turionibu[s
n 12 [ c.7 ] numeri eius [
13 [c.3 tu]am misericord[ia]m
14 imploro ne patiaris me
n 15 hominem trasmarinum
n 16 et innocentem de cuius f[ide
n 17 inquiras uirgis cruent[at]u[m
n 18 esse ac si aliquid sceler[i]s
n 19 commississem uacat

Translation:

"... he beat (?) me all the more ... goods ... or pour them down the drain (?). As befits an honest man (?) I implore your majesty not to allow me, an innocent man, to have been beaten with rods and, my lord, inasmuch as (?) I was unable to complain to the prefect because he was detained by ill-health I have complained in vain (?) to the beneficiarius and the rest (?) of the centurions of his (?) unit. Accordingly (?) I implore your mercifulness not to allow me, a man from overseas and an innocent one, about whose good faith you may inquire, to have been bloodied by rods as if I had committed some crime."

Notes:

1-4          This passage presents the most difficult problems of restoration and interpretation. Fundamental to our understanding of it is the placement of a small fragment so as to supply the beginnings of lines 1-3. We are confident that this is correct and it is supported by the fact that the first of the three lines commences slightly to the left of the others and is thus likely to be the first line in the column; the placement also suits the text of the account on the other side.

1          eo magis me ca[: the readings seem certain, despite the loss of the left part of m. Given the repetitiveness of the text (compare lines i.5-6 and ii.13-4), it is attractive to restore some part of the verb castigo, most probably ca[stigauit.

2          d...[.]em: at the left, di (less probably de) looks the most likely reading, then the tops of two letters which would suit c or s or g, followed by e. We could plausibly restore dice[r]em or -dige[r]em. Then mercem is certain; what appears to be a supralinear addition following it is in fact an offset. mercem may refer to merchandise or goods (see 234.i.5 note) and a reference to a reduction in its worth would be suitable, but it does not seem that redigo can mean this without some further qualification ( e.g. ad nummum, ad assem).

3          effunder[: it is a little surprising to find the verb effundo in this context but the reading leaves no room for doubt. We tentatively suggest that it is to be understood in the literal sense of "pouring down the drain". If the stroke between mai and es in line 4 is a descender from this line (see note to lines 4-5), the letter can only be r in this hand.

4          [..]mine probo: m is far from certain but we can see no better reading. probo is reasonably secure despite the horizontal split running through the word. Unless probo goes with tuam maies[t]atem and imploro begins a new sentence, which seems most unlikely, [do]mine must be ruled out and it is probable we have the phrase [ho]mine probo, which seems likely to refer to the petitioner. We could make sense of this by supposing that the phrase including [ho]mine probo begins a new sentence (we owe this point to Prof. H.M.Hine). As a possible reconstruction we offer, with diffidence and exempli gratia: eo magis me ca[stigauit dum] / dice[r]em mercem [nihil uale-]/r[e] / uel effunder[em. p]r[o] / [ho]mine probo etc. This is admittedly somewhat awkward. If it is plausible, however, it may be suggested that the small fragment with le (not shown in Plate XXXI) may belong to ualere. For this meaning of pro, "as befits", see OLD, s.v. 16b.

4-5          tuam maies[t]atem imploro: the position of tuam before its noun is probably paralleled in the similar phrase in lines 13-4; although the tablet is split horizontally through this word there is no doubt about the reading. After mai there is a letter which descends below the line with a hook to the left. Two explanations are possible. Either it is an extraordinarily long descender of r in the previous line (of which this section is lost) and the writer has simply jumped over it in writing maies (the closest parallel for such an r is in misericord[ia]m, line ii.13); or he has written maiiestatem with the second i different in form from the first. The spelling is possible, see CIL 13.3672 and the discussion of this and analogous forms by Leumann (1977), 127; see also e.g. Priscian, Gramm. 2.14.6, antiqui solebant ... "maiius" ... scribere quod non aliter pronuntiari posset, quam si ... proferretur ut "mai-ius". We prefer the first explanation.
For maiestatem imploro cf. the petition from the coloni of the saltus Burunitanus to Commodus, II.19-20 (most recent edition by Flach (1978), 489-92), im]ploratum maiestatem tu[am.

6-7          uirgis cas[t]igatum esse: there is a horizontal stroke between i and r which makes it look as if uergis might have been written but the mark is an offset (there is no doubt about the reading in line ii.17). In general compare the saltus Burunitanus inscription (cited in the previous note), II.11-16, missis militib(us) [in eu]ndem saltum Burunitanum ali[os nos]trum adprehendi et uexari, ali[os uinc]iri, non<n>ullos ciues etiam Ro[manos] uirgis et fustibus effligi iusse[rit], cf. Acts 16. The trademark of the vicious centurion was the uitis, with which floggings were inflicted (see Tacitus, Ann. 1.23, cf. Juvenal 14.193, Livy, Epit. 57), but the use of the word uirgis does not seem a sufficient reason to exclude the possibility that the victim's persecutor was a centurion (see note to lines 10-12). The perfect participle passive (also in lines ii.17-8), makes the writer's current position ambiguous; by asking the recipient not to allow him to have been punished, he might be asking either for prevention or redress. We prefer to suppose that the latter is the case (cf. our suggested restoration of ca[stigauit in line 1).

7          prou[.].: the letter after pro is most like u and we wonder whether the reading is prout. To this there are both palaeographical and linguistic objections: the trace before prae is very high for the top of t (though cf. perhaps potui in the following line) and would better suit c, e, g or s, and there seems to be room for another letter between u and t. In addition prout does not seem to be the right word in the context; if we have interpreted the sense correctly it is difficult to see why the writer could not simply have used cum, quia or quod. A.R.Birley (1990a), 18 has suggested Proc[ul]e; it is not impossible to interpret the traces in this way, but there does not seem to be room for two letters in the gap between them; if this is right the next sentence follows in asyndeton. If prout is right we suppose that it means "inasmuch as".

8-9          quia ua/[let]udini detinebatur: we have considered the possibility that we have the locative of a place-name Va[...]udinium before detinebatur, but, especially in view of the phrase quia perpetua ualetudine detinetur in CIL 6.100234.17 (AD 153), the restoration of ua[le]tudini, with the meaning "bad health" (cf. perhaps 227.b.2) seems inescapable, despite the fact that we expect the ablative ualetudine. There is not room for more than three letters at the left of line 9. Both examples of i at the end of the word are tall and slightly bowed (the first more than the second) but there is no sign of a cross-bar on the second. It is perhaps best to regard it as a simple error.

10-12          There are two small joining fragments which, by a process of elimination, are most likely to belong at the beginning of either line 10 or line 11 and the offsets show that the former is correct. This means that the restoration ques[tu]s sum seems inevitable and the sense would be "[inasmuch as] I could not complain to the prefect ... I complained to the beneficiarius ...". If our understanding of the writer's drift, that he is making his present appeal because previous efforts to obtain redress have failed, is correct a possible restoration would be: ques[tu]s sum beneficiario / frustra et ce]nturionibu[s / ceteris] numeri eius etc.
beneficiario: it is probable, since the writer seems to be referring to local military officers, that he is here referring to the beneficiarius praefecti of the unit at Vindolanda rather than a beneficiarius consularis. For a beneficiarius praefecti of the First Cohort of Tungrians, which could be the unit involved here (see above, pp.22-3), see RIB I 1619 (Housesteads, Hurmius son of Leubasnus). The account on the other side of this leaf records a dispensation of wheat to a beneficiarius whose name begins with Lu- (180.18) and there is no reason why the same person should not be involved in the matter described in the petition. There is little evidence for the functions of the beneficiarii praefecti but it is noteworthy that the beneficiarii of the governor often provide the link between the civilian population and the governor (see Rankov (1986), especially 254, 279-80 citing evidence for complaints to beneficiarii, assumed to be beneficiarii of the prefect of Egypt, e.g. P.Amh.II 77, SPP XXII 55). It seems reasonable to suppose that at Vindolanda the beneficiarius of an auxiliary prefect might provide the link between a complainant and a prefect of a unit who could not be approached directly. For a beneficiarius in a tablet from Carlisle see Tomlin (1992), 152, note 57.
cen]turionibu[s / c.7 ] numeri eius: the restoration of cen]turionibu[s is not open to doubt. Thereafter we propose to restore ceteris (or something with the same sense) in the lacuna, see above, and to understand eius as a pronoun referring to the assailant. numeri simply means "unit" in a general sense, see 310.i.8-9 and note. There is abundant evidence in papyri from Egypt for petitions or complaints addressed to centurions (e.g. P.Ryl.II 141, AD 37).

12-3          [proin- /de ] or [qua- / re ] would supply the sense required. If prout is right in line i.7 (see note) [proin/de] would be very suitable.
tu]am misericord[ia]m imploro: for the position of tu]am see note to line 4; there is a tiny fragment with the letter m which clearly belongs at the right-hand side and must supply the end of misericord[ia]m; for the phrase cf. Cicero, pro Murena 86, uestram fidem obtestatur, <uestram> misericordiam implorat.

15          hominem trasmarinum: for the omission of n cf. 187.ii.2, Masuetus. Compare ChLA III 200, a sale of a slave from Seleucia Pieria, described as "natione transfluminianum". The writer is here likely to be a Gaul who wished to distinguish himself from the local natives. At VRR II, 59, however, it is taken as indicating the recruitment of Britons.

16          f[ide: f is certain, the rest is conjecture and the word is suggested exempli gratia.

17          cruent[at]u[m: the leaf is broken diagonally at the right-hand edge. The reading is inescapable but we have to suppose that all or most of the m is lost. We have not been able to parallel the expression with uirgis but note TLL IV 1237, quoting Optatus 2.18 (p.52.4), tegulis plurimi cruentati sunt.

18          aliquid sceler[i]s: the reading after sceler is uncertain since there is a piece of the tablet missing; aliquid + genitive would be the most satisfactory reading, see OLD, s.v. aliquis B7a.

19          commississem: see 255.i.6-8 note, 309.i.3 note.


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