Miscellaneous correspondence

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Miscellaneous correspondence: tablets 301-353

From Alan Bowman and David Thomas, Vindolanda: the Latin writing tablets London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1983, pp. 275

Under this heading we have collected 53 texts which merit a full edition and cannot be shown to belong with any of the groups of correspondence which we have identified; it is possible, however, that some of them belong with other groups, particularly the correspondence of Cerialis which is by far the largest. The range of correspondents and subjects is varied and there are several very interesting and important texts. 343 is the longest of all the letters found at Vindolanda and casts a valuable light on the economic and entrepreneurial activity in the frontier region; 309 attests the despatch of components for wagons and there are two texts which certainly or probably concern the quarrying of stone (314 and 316). A fragmentary text which is probably part of a letter clearly attests the very important fact that a census was being (or was to be) carried out, perhaps in the earlier part of the 90s (304), and military or official activities are also recorded in 345. More intriguing is 344, coming from the same milieu as 343 and three important accounts (180-182), in which the writer complains to a high official about maltreatment and beating, perhaps by a centurion. A more fragmentary text may contain a similar petition or appeal about the theft of a balteus (322) and judicial activity may also be mentioned in 317 (cf. 281). 312 refers to a debt and to the imminent arrival of someone, presumably at the place to which the letter was addressed, perhaps Coria Textoverdorum.

More personal matters are reflected in 310, to the governor's equisio, and 311, in which the sender complains about the addressee's failure to write. 346 records the despatch of what are probably personal gifts of clothing. Domestic and social matters are represented in 301, concerning items for the celebration of the Saturnalia, and 302, the provision of foodstuffs, including chickens, apples, eggs and olives.

Equestrian officers are represented in this correspondence (315, 319, 345, probably 318 and possibly 305). It is harder to be sure about the lower ranks: we have the governor's equisio in 310 and a duplicarius in 312; 346 reads as if it concerns people of modest status but that cannot be proved. The servile sector is quite well represented (301, 303, 347, probably 302 and perhaps 311 and 341). There is one letter which is probably from a woman and is certainly not addressed to Sulpicia Lepidina (324).

As for the hands, we have not been able to identify any groups of letters by common hands but it should be noted that 313 is written by the same hand as one of the letters to Saecularis (213), and the hand of Chrauttius, correspondent of the governor's equisio (310), is very probably also in evidence in the correspondence of Cerialis (264).

Miscellaneous correspondence: tablets 301-353

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