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TVII Tablet: 347
Search Result: 1
Title: Letter from Rhenus, slave of similis, to Primigenius, slave?
Category: Miscellaneous correspondence

Commentary:

Eight fragments of a diptych, of which three (one consisting of two joining pieces) have writing, two on both sides. It seems likely that we have two fragments from each half of a diptych, that (b) contains the top of the second column and that (c) is to be placed below it, but not immediately below. The tablet contains a letter from Rhenus, a slave of Similis (see c.back 2 note), to Primigenius who may be a slave of Cerialis (see note to b.back 1). The closure is written in a hand similar to the main hand (a very good one) but possibly not the same one. For slaves in the military context see Speidel (1989).

Text:

a
n 1 Rhenus Primigenio [
2 sa]lutem
. . . . . . .
b
. . . . .
n 1 ualde desidero
2 traces
. . . . .
b.Back
n 1 traces?
. . . . .
c
. . . . .
n 1 ueniam maxi[
n 2 .erte uacat
n 3 m2?opto [
n 4 ter [
. . . . .
Back
. . . . .
n 1 m1 ]alis traces?             
n 2 a Rh]eno Similis
3 seruo

Translation:

"Rhenus to his Primigenius, greetings. ... I very much desire ... the greatest indulgence (?) ... through (?) you. (2nd hand?) I pray that you are in good health, dearest brother (?) ... (Back, 1st hand) [To Primigenius] (slave of) (?) ...alis, from Rhenus, slave of Similis."

Notes:

a 1          For the cognomen Rhenus, which is not common, see LC 203 and cf. Rhenicus (CIL 13.11548). The name of the addressee, Primigenius, is very common and is much used by slaves and freedmen (see LC 290). The large gap between the name of the sender and that of the recipient is noteworthy (cf. 249.1, 259.1, 321.1).

b 1          ualde desidero: there are apparently no traces of ink before this and the phrase is appropriate for the beginning of the letter. There appear, however, to be traces of writing on the back which must belong to the address; if this is so this fragment must belong to the right-hand portion of the letter.

b.Back 1          If the traces are ink, they must belong to the address; it is possible that we have traces of the end of Primigenio followed by Ceri-, with the end of the name on the back of (c), see note.

c 1-2          A.R.Birley (1990a), 19 cites this as referring to a despatch of wine, but the reading of ueniam leaves very little room for doubt. What follows, if correctly read, must be part of maximus, either the superlative or a name. ueniam could be the present subjunctive or future indicative of uenio or one of its compounds. An alternative solution is to take ueniam as the noun, followed by maxi[mam.
.er te: either ter te or certe looks preferable to per te from a palaeographical point of view, but there is a clear uacat following which indicates that this must be the end of the message and this seems a difficult position for either. We can envisage the expression of a strong desire to see the addressee, followed by something beginning with a phrase such as per]ueniam maxi[ma celeritate; or, if ueniam is the noun, something like ut / ueniam maxi[mam habeam/accipiam / per te.

c 3-4          ter can hardly be anything but the end of frater, in which case Primigenius must surely also be of servile status (see back 1 note). We can envisage opto [te bene ualere fra]/ter [karissime.

Back 1          1. ]alis: the reading is compatible with the traces. If it is correct, Primigenius might be a slave of Flavius Cerialis or of Flavius Genialis; the traces on the back of (b) are very uncertain but might favour the former. It is uncertain whether there are traces following but the name of the addressee could be followed by a simple genitive, without seruo (see 301.back, P.Oxy.XLIV 3208 verso = CEL 10).

Back 2          Similis: it is likely that this is the Flavius Similis attested as a correspondent of Flavius Cerialis in 254, 235 and probably 286.


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