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Digitising Vindolanda

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Accounts and lists: tablets 178-209

From Alan Bowman and David Thomas, Vindolanda: the Latin writing tablets London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1983, pp. 118-120

The attributions of the texts which we have grouped under this heading cover the pre-Hadrianic levels 2, 3, 4 and 5. In Tab.Vindol.I we grouped military reports and accounts together under the general heading "Documents" (Tab.Vindol.I 1-20). We now feel confident that in almost all cases we can distinguish the military reports and documents (127-177) from the accounts. More precise classification of the accounts and lists still presents difficulties, however. We are quite certain that we have, on the one hand, accounts which relate to the administration of the unit as a whole (e.g. 178) and, on the other, lists which are concerned with the domestic administration of the praetorium (e.g. 195-196). There are, however, a great many cases in which it is impossible to be certain to which of these categories (if, indeed, they are exclusive) the text ought to be assigned.

We have ordered the texts, very tentatively, into three groups. The first group consists of accounts which appear to relate to the administration of the military unit(s) or the position and military duties of soldiers, and accounts which relate to soldiers and personnel outside the context of the praetorium (178-189). The second group consists of texts which appear to relate to the domestic administration of the praetorium and the personnel in it (190-199). The third, quite substantial group, includes texts which we do not feel that we can place with confidence in either of the first two groups (200-209).

It is important to re-emphasise that we have classified these texts on the basis of content rather than archaeological attribution. We might expect that tablets attributed to Periods 2 and 3 will reflect activity in the praetorium, while those in the barracks/workshop of Periods 4 and 5 will relate to soldiers and personnel outside it. For reasons already explained (Vol. II, Ch. 1)), we have used these chronological indications only as a general guide and not as a basis for deducing the nature of any particular text.

(a) Accounts relating to the administration of the unit etc.

The only text which explicitly relates to the administration of the fort or the unit as a whole is 178, recording the reditus castelli; 179 may be a text of the same type. It should be noted that, if we exclude receipts and pay-records, of which we have no examples at Vindolanda, the number of Latin military accounts which might properly be described as official is very small indeed - we have noted only RMR 74, 82, 83, ChLA XI 506 and Doc.Madasa 723.

There are several accounts which clearly relate to individual soldiers or groups of soldiers, and to people outside the context of the praetorium. In several cases it is impossible to be sure whether the transactions or activities which they represent should be seen as official (relating to their position and military duties) or personal; it may be that in reality, the distinction was not always clear-cut (cf. the note to ChLA III 204). The most important sub-group in this category consists of the accounts which were found in the area which has been identified as the centurions' quarters in the Period 4 barracks (180, 181, 182) and which certainly have links with the entrepreneurial letter of Octavius to Candidus (343) and the petition about maltreatment (344, written on the other side of 180). The difficulty over the distinction between official and personal matters may be illustrated by the fact that 180 records wheat dispensed militibus legionaribus [sic] iussu Firmi (lines 22-3, whether regular military rations or not it is impossible to tell) and to a certain Lucco in ussus [sic] suos (line 30). We think it likely that this group of accounts represents transactions involving both civilian entrepreneurs and soldiers (and perhaps also connected non-military personnel such as female companions and slaves). The same may be true of an account assigned to Period 5 (184), in which the records of purchases or sums owed for such things as towels, cloaks and tallow (sebum) are organised by century. A somewhat different kind of activity may be attested by 185 if we have correctly interpreted it as a record of expenses incurred on a journey between Vindolanda and the south, perhaps for food and drink, clothing, stabling and axles for a carriage. The latter invites comparison with a letter which contains an embedded account recording the transport to Vindolanda of the components of wagons (309). 186, the only text from Vindolanda with a consular date (AD 111), records quantities of beer, nails for boots, salt, wheat and perhaps pork and goat-meat. 187 is a cash account which probably includes the names of a woman and a veteran, and the names in 188 suggest ordinary soldiers rather than officers.

(b) The praetorium.

The accounts which most obviously suggest the existence of a substantial body of material relating to the administration of the praetorium are 190 and 191 which we originally regarded as likely to relate to the military unit. It now seems obvious that many of the accounts from Periods 2 and 3 must also be related to the praetorium. Texts which list some of the more unusual foodstuffs and commodities (such as 192 and 193) may well belong to this category and it should be noted that there are three letters, two probably connected with slaves of Genialis and Verecundus respectively (301, 302), which refer to the provision of foodstuffs in this context. A third, a copy of a letter from Cerialis (233), seems to contain an earlier, brief account of a similar kind. Equally interesting are the lists of household equipment and clothing, more likely to be inventories than accounts, which presumably reflect the possessions and the lifestyle of the equestrian officer class (194, 195, 196, 197); these may well be written by the same hand as 191.

 

(c) Uncertain

Two texts well exemplify the difficulties of classification which we have mentioned. 207, assigned to the Period 3 praetorium, contains a record (not a cash account) of clothing, in which the highest number of an individual type of garment is 15; the name of the supplier, Gavo, appears in an account probably relating to the praetorium context (192) but the quantities in 207 might suggest that these could be cloaks intended for soldiers in a particular contubernium. Second, a fragmentary cash account which may be a record of repayment of loan or interest thereon (206). Such transactions between ordinary soldiers are known (cf. 312, Tomlin (1992)), but it is equally possible that it might relate to a slave in the commander's household or, indeed, that it relates to a transaction between a resident of the praetorium and a member of the unit outside it. There is another account of food written on a tablet containing a draft letter of Flavius Cerialis (233). For other accounts see: 375, 380, 387, 411, 428, 439, 440, 479, 493, 495, 500, 510, 512-518 (some doubtful).

We should explain the convention we have followed in resolving symbols and abbreviations. In some cases the text itself allows us to deduce which case of the noun we should understand, e.g. 180.6 requires m(odii), 181.11-15 and 182.i.9 require (denarios). Where we have summa we have resolved in the nominative case. 185.20-1 shows the use of the accusative in a list of items and on this basis we have followed the practice of resolving symbols and abbreviations in the accusative where we have no other indication, except in 178, a simple list of amounts under the heading reditus castelli, which might be a nominative plural. The accusative could be justified on the ground that the writer of an account might normally assume that the items and amounts in his list were objects of some unstated verb.

Accounts and lists: tablets 178-209

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