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Volume One (TVI) material for tablet 218 (TVI tablet number 34)


References: Bowman-Thomas, VWT, pl. xv; Bowman-Thomas, Historia 24 (1975), p.474; Birley, Vindolanda, pl. 81

Seven joining fragments from the right-hand portion of a diptych. There survive four complete lines of a letter and, on the back, an address to Flavius Genialis. We do not know what Genialis’s position or rank was. Of the tablets which can be assigned to his archive, No. 34 (218) is the only one with any substantial amount of text, and its content, in so far as it can be recovered, makes it seem likely that he belonged to the officer class. The loss of most of the text of the letter, which looks as if it might have been of some interest, is particularly regrettable.

The hand is an interesting one, not without some pretensions to elegance. Note in particular the regular use of an additional stroke at the right in a (cf. FIG. 11.2), the two forms of d, the common occurrence of long ascenders and descenders and, above all, the very marked serifs on certain letters, especially l and n. There is a remarkable h in mihi (line 1) in which the cross-bar starts from the top of the left-hand hasta (cf. h in mihi in No. 39.3 (299)).



1. Since the space above this line shows no trace of the bottoms of letters, it is likely that this was the first line of the right-hand column of the letter.

cis: if this is correct it may be, for example, the end of a noun such as ami]cis or a verb such as fa]cis. But sis is also a possible reading.

mihi: on .the remarkable form of h see introductory comments.

credid[eris: although broken, the last letter surviving can hardly be anything but d. If the writer followed the expected sequence of tenses credid[eris would seem to be the only reading possible.

1 ff. The sentence structure is far from certain. Dr. Adams has drawn our attention to the fact that rogo (ut) plus subjunctive is formulaic in epistolography of this period (see CPL 303.10, 246.5, 251.20 f., 255.11 f. and above, No. 22.5-7, 9-10 (250)) especially when the subjunctive is mittas (see CPL 304.15, 250.17 f., 251.23 f., 27). He adds that it is not uncommon for a si-clause to be interposed between rogo and the subjunctive, referring to Cicero, ad Att. 5.12.3, rogo de aqua si quid poterit fieri . . . . . sis; ad Att. 5.18.3, 16.5.2; No. 22.5-7 (250) and especially to CPL 251.23 f., rogo te, pater, si tibi uidebitur, ut mittas . . . . . . In view of this we are confident that rogo . . . reserues is to be taken as a unit. It is not clear whether the sentence should end here or after esset in line 3. We have chosen to end here because of the tense of esset which goes better with mandaui; it is also easier to explain the switch from mihi to nobis if the clauses to which they belong are in different sentences. It is also unclear whether we should make a heavy stop after mandaui and whether the next sentence came to an end with dimisi.

2. opus: an earlier photograph leaves no doubt about the reading of the first letter and little about the second; from the later photograph (PL. VII, 1) it can be seen that u is almost certain for the third letter and that s is possible for the last (i is also possible, but usui certainly cannot be read). opus is contextually and grammatically suitable.

3. esset: esses is possible but cannot be right if we are correct in reading opus. Presumably the stroke over the final letter, which appears to be the top of an s, belongs to the second s of esset. Paterno: this name does not occur elsewhere in the tablets.

n(ostro): for this abbreviation see No. 21.9-11 note (248).

Even though only a few letters survive, we are confident that the interlinear addition was written by a second hand (perhaps the author himself correcting the letter as written by a clerk?). This hand has corrected mandare (which appears to have no construction) to mandaui, and added some writing which we cannot read in full. The spacing suggests that there were three words of which the first is fairly certainly et. Presumably there follows a second name to go with Paterno and this probably begins with Ga and ends with o; in between there is probably only one letter but there is certainly too much ink for i (Gaio); u, n and m all seem just possible, and of these we should probably opt for m since Gamus is attested as a cognomen (it is not in Kajanto LC but it can be found in the indices of ILS). What follows is uncertain: l seems clear and it is preceded by one or two letters. We are reluctant to read nil since there does not seem to be enough ink for both n and i, and it is in any case improbable that an insertion of this kind would totally transform the sense of the original message. Perhaps it is an abbreviation: mil (for militi) seems too much for the traces; possibly fil (for filio)?

For the construction with mandaui, where ad te replaces the more usual tibi and Paterno is used in the sense per Paternum, cf. TLL s.v.III and cf. in particular Tacitus, Ann.2.30, extremas preces P.Quirinio propinquo suo ad principem mandauit and Cicero ad Att. 11.12.1, saepe enim ad eum scripsi multisque mandaui me non potuisse; on the latter TLL adds ‘sc.ut ei dicerent’ and Shackleton Bailey (No. 223) translates ‘I have written to him repeatedly and sent word by others that I was unable . . .’, a translation which we have imitated (though it would perhaps more accurately reflect the construction were we to translate ‘I instructed Paternus to bring word to you’).

3-4. quemquem ita exegeras: all the dotted letters are uncertain but no other readings seem possible. quemquam would be acceptable palaeographically but can be excluded on linguistic grounds; it means any single person’ and is usually found in negative statements or in questions implying a negative answer (we are again indebted to Dr. Adams for this observation).

6. The name is written in the elongated letters characteristic of addresses in the tablets. There is no doubt about the reading even though the bottoms of letters in the cognomen are missing. In spite of our tentative assignation of three letters to this ‘archive’ it is fair to say that No. 34 (218) is the only one in which the reading of the name is beyond doubt. If Genialis’s rank or position was specified it will have been in the lower part of this tablet, now lost.