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Volume One (TVI) material for tablet 263 (TVI tablet number 23)


The right-hand portion of a diptych, now in six pieces. This is certainly complete at the top and right (see further the note to line 15) and contains on the front ten lines of the right-hand column of a letter, and on the back an address to Flavius Cerialis. It is particularly important as being the only text which gives Cerialis his full title and allows us to identify him with confidence as praefectus of cohors viii Batauorum. The text on the front has been much abraded and the right-hand parts of the lower lines have virtually completely disappeared. The subject of the letter appears to be the despatch of letters by the hand of a centurion (see line 4 note).

We are reasonably confident that both sides are in the same hand, a competent, right-sloping cursive similar to that in No. 38 (346). In fact, although the name and title of Cerialis in lines 12-3 are written in the elongated address script, lines 14 and 15 are written in the normal cursive and are certainly the work of the hand which wrote the letter on the front. Particularly noteworthy are the st ligature in epistu (line 3) and equestre (line 5), and the n in one movement with ligature to preceding e (and following t?) in centurione (line 5).



1. The o at the very edge of the leaf must belong to the left-hand column which, in these letters, often overruns the central fold. The alignment suggests that it must belong to the first line of the letter and must therefore belong to su]o.

2. The trace between e and t is perhaps c, but the mark may possibly not be ink. Both examples of e in this line are apparently made in two semicircular strokes (cf. FIG. 11.12, see Vol. 1., Ch. 4); the letter is probably not made in this way elsewhere in this text or in any other of the texts.

com: this may be the beginning of a reference to commendatio in view of the fact that line 3 begins with m (e.g. tu ei com/m[endauis).

3. The trace in the middle of the line is a descender, hooked to the left. We might possibly have a[r]et before epistu but the spacing precludes a restoration of com/m[end]a[r]et.

4. At the end of the line we propose the reading acceperam, despite the fact that the reading of pe is difficult. The tail of r following can be seen descending through the line below. All that remains of the last letter is a hasta; part of the edge of the leaf has broken off here and there would be room for m. The trace would suit s also, but acceperas does not make sense since the writer is hardly likely to be referring to letters received by the addressee, especially if we are right in supposing that he goes on to refer to the forwarding of the letters.

5. Equestre is not a difficult reading except for the penultimate letter, which looks more like t than r. In view of what follows it must be a proper name and it is striking that the centurion named in No. 22.8 (250) also has the same cognomen; not an exceedingly common one. We hesitate to draw the conclusion that these are one and the same man because the person in No. 23 is centurion of the auxiliary cohors viii Batauorum (see note to line 6) whereas the man in No. 22 (250) is a centurio regionarius (see notes to lines 8-9) and must therefore be a legionary. It is possible, however, that the letters were written at different times and that the man was promoted (for an example of promotion from auxiliary to legionary centurion see P. Holder, AAT, pp.101, 384). On the form of the ablative see see Vol. 1., Ch. 5.

6. coh(ortis) viii Batauorum: we have settled on this reading only after some hesitation. First, because it seems odd that in a letter to Cerialis the writer should name the centurion's unit when Cerialis was in command of it (see note to line 13) and had presumably sent him. Second, because there is some doubt about the reading of the numeral; what we can see could equally well be read as iii preceded and followed by a medial point (as in No. 30.4 (295)). But in view of the fact that we are reasonably confident about the name (b.…orum is certain and the other traces suit the reading well enough), we consider it easier to accept the apparently superfluous naming of the unit than to create a third Batavian cohort (unattested elsewhere except for the remark in Tacitus Agr.36, see No. 2 introductory comments (151)) and to explain Cerialis’s connection with it. As is normal, there is no abbreviation mark after coh. The stroke over the numeral is saucer-shaped.

For the letters at the end, we propose the reading d[i]mi completed by si at the beginning of the next line. For the use of dimitto in this sense see e. g. Caesar, BC 3.22.1.

7. si: this is written to the left of the beginnings of the other lines, which suggests that it was omitted in the first instance and inserted later.

a.te pr(idie) K(alendas): interpretation and reading of the letters preceding pr(idie) is difficult. The letter after a most resembles u but this suggests nothing. We have considered ad te but this seems impossible because there is no sign of a hasta for d; ante is not much easier palaeographically but seems slightly preferable, although it is difficult to explain the phrase. Two possibilities occur to us: either it means ‘I forwarded the letters at some point in time before April 30’ or it is simply a clumsy way of saying pridie Kal., that is on the day before the Kalends; there is perhaps some slight support for the latter in Pliny, NH 8.177 and 11.41 where he uses the expression a.d. pridie, which is taken to mean the same as pridie (but note that diem does not appear in the Vindolanda text).

ma…..: maias, with a short word following (e.g. et) seems to us to suit the traces best but martias cannot be excluded.

8. This line and the three following are very badly abraded at the right, and we can only really guess at plausible readings for the left-hand side. Here we might have te excedere, perhaps part of a new sentence beginning with nos or et nos in the previous line.

9. This line seems to begin with do and to end with n (with superscript line), i.e. some case of n(oster), preceded either by a name or by a title (cf. No. 30.5 (295), and No. 34.3 (218)).

11. Perhaps this line begins uitali, a name, or uitabi[.

12. The last three letters of Ceriali are preserved in full; only the feet of the preceding letters survive, but the reading is not in doubt.

13. pr is certain; thereafter the traces, especially of e, are very faint but suit the reading, which is certain.

uiii : the last digit in the numeral is a very faint trace, but something was clearly written here so that the reading given is, we believe, the only one possible.

Bat(auorum): the references in No. 2 (151) (see introductory comments and note to line 2) and in this text are decisive in favour of the cohort being the 8th Batavian. Here the name seems to have been abbreviated without any mark (whereas in line 6 it is written in full). The normal practice in these letters was to write the address on the back of the right-hand section of the diptych after folding it; thus, to write batauorum in full here the writer would have had to turn over the folded diptych and continue on the back of the left-hand section.

14. We can only guess that this was an instruction to deliver the letter to an intermediary named Alfidius or to someone else (see note to line 15).

15. aut stands in the middle of the line on its own. There is no sign of writing below this, but it is possible that something may be lost from the bottom of the tablet (note that line 11 does not seem to contain a closing greeting). If the diptych was comparable in height with No. 21 (250), for example, as much as 1.5 cm might be lost.