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Tablet 344

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Vindolanda Inventory No. 88.943


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).

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
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


"... 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."