Vindolanda Tablets Online Tablets Exhibition Reference Help

Volume One (TVI) material for tablet 297 (TVI tablet number 31)


Nine fragments forming part of the left-hand portion of a diptych and containing a letter written to Crispinus by a man whose name is only partially preserved (perhaps most likely to be Firminus). The hand is a workmanlike cursive with one or two features of note. Thus, considering the small size of the surviving sample, we have a relatively large number of ligatures. Note especially nus in line 1, ni in animo (line 3) and es followed by ti in line 9: note also that d appears in both the usual forms, contrast idem (line 4) and aliquid (line 6) with q]uod (line 7) and pudo[ (line 9); and l appears both as a small square letter (line 3) and in a long form with a noticeable foot (aliquid, line 6). The most important feature of the script is its frequent use of interpunct, which is found so regularly that its absence invites comment. Its absence between a monosyllable and the word following need occasion no surprise in view of the regular habit in mediaeval manuscripts of omitting word division in such places; and this would account for its omission after in (line 4), non (line 5), to (line 6) and q]uod (line 7). But we would expect to find it indicated after idem (line 4) and before and after umquam in the following line, where we can see no trace of its presence (note, however, our remarks on the difficulty of being sure when interpunct is and is not present in working from photographs, see Vol. 1., Ch. 4. On the use of interpunct in general in the tablets see Vol. 1., Ch. 4. The back of the tablet is blank.

It is impossible to recover any connected sense from the portions of the text which have survived. The phrasing suggests a rather apologetic tone and the writer might perhaps be justifying to Crispinus some action of which the latter had disapproved.



1. Only the tail of r survives, but we think the reading almost certain. For the restoration of the name we note that Kajanto, LC cites Firminus (p.258) and Terminus (p.345); of these the former is perhaps commoner. There may have been a short nomen before this. No name with this ending occurs elsewhere in the tablets.

3. We may have almost the full width of the line in lines 3-5 if the writer indented his text slightly (as is done in Nos. 21 (248) and 30 (295), for example), beginning the address further out to the left. malo animo: for the expression cf. Cicero, ad fam.12.14.3 (Shackleton Bailey, No.405), malus animus eorum in nostra<m> salute<m>; Seneca, ben.5.20.2, nihil refert an bonam rem malo animo quis accipiat; Quintilian, 7.4.15, male fecisse nos sed bono animo dicimus. Its meaning is connected with motive rather than state of mind. The text of the left-hand column may have overrun the fold, but we would have lost only a short word.

4. Perhaps contracti[, most likely to be the perfect participle of contraho.

5. We might well have es[t at the end.

7. Perhaps q]uod factum .[.

9. Perhaps mod]esti or hon]esti pudo[ris.

There are three tiny fragments, one of which (reading ].ti.[) perhaps belongs to a line below this. The other two scraps might join but cannot be placed in the text: there are traces of three lines of which the second appears to have ].co..[.