From Alan Bowman and David Thomas, Vindolanda: the Latin writing
tablets London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies,
1983, pp. 199-200
By far the largest group of letters is the correspondence of Flavius
Cerialis, prefect of the Ninth Cohort of Batavians at Vindolanda
during Period 3. We are able to include in this group some 56 texts
with certainty or probability (225-280)
and there are another 10 texts which possibly belong (281-290).
Note also that 347
might be a letter to a slave of Cerialis. In addition, at least
six of the applications for leave (166-171)
are addressed to him. This makes it very likely that a great deal
of the Period 3 material, both documents and unattributed letters,
should be connected with him (see also Vol.
II, Ch. 1, note 11). The find-spots of the texts indicate that
they were spread over a large area of the Period 3 praetorium.
There are 17 letters which are or might be drafts or copies of
Cerialis' own letters (225-241;
on the grounds for this distinction see Vol.
II, Ch. 3) and one letter which seems to have been sent by Cerialis
and brought back to Vindolanda by its recipient (242).
In this sub-group the names of only four of his correspondents are
preserved: September and Brocchus were certainly equestrian officers
Crispinus may have been more highly placed (225),
and the position of Flavius Similis is unknown (235).
Cerialis' letters cover both military/professional and personal
matters. There are references to deserters (226),
to a numeratio (242),
and a request for personal support or patronage (225).
Personal matters possibly include an illness (his own or that of
a son, (227),
the purchase of some protection against bad weather (234),
and a request for some hunting-nets (233).
It is thus clear that Cerialis did not merely keep copies of letters
relating to military business. The identification of common hands
is a hazardous procedure, but in the letters emanating from Cerialis
the hand which we can most often identify probably occurs in 8 texts
and it is this which we have suggested is the hand of Cerialis himself,
writing drafts. In the other copies we think that there is a common
hand in 234
and another in 235
(plus, possibly, 233).
Thus, apart from his own hand there are four or five other hands
at work in the writing of Cerialis' correspondence.
In the 48 letters sent to Cerialis we can name 18 correspondents.
They include 10 who can be identified with certainty, or some degree
of probability, as equestrian officers: Claudius Karus (250-251),
Caecilius September ((252-253),
Aelius Brocchus (243-248,
Flavius Similis (254,
Hostilius Flavianus (261),
Oppius Niger (249),
Valerius Niger (248
Flavius Genialis (256),
and Pastor (259).
There are two probable centurions, Clodius Super and Imber (255,
and two decurions, Vitalis and Verus (263,
It should also be noted that the hand in one fragment of a letter
suggests that the sender was Chrauttius, known elsewhere as a correspondent
of the governor's equisio 264).
Of the others, Faber may be a decurion (281)
and Valatta is presumably a woman (257);
there is no clue to the position of Placidus (262).
The letters which Cerialis received deal with a range of military
and professional matters, as well as personal issues. One writer
sends something through a cavalryman (252,
also perhaps in 268),
another requests clothing for his pueri, certainly slaves
there is a letter of recommendation (250,
also perhaps (260)
and an expression of good wishes for Cerialis himself (248);
the movement of personnel is mentioned in 236
the despatch of letters in 263;
is a curious missive which appears to concern the sender's personal
safety and fear of being attacked. On the personal side we have
a request for a favour 257),
perhaps a personal appeal in 282,
New Year greetings and a reference to a celebratory sacrifice in
In the letters received by Cerialis, we have not found any common
hands, apart from those which can be identified in the correspondence
of Brocchus and Severa, of which two occur more than once (see 243,
introduction). For other texts which may belong with this group
Note also that Tab.Vindol.I 27 (= 519),
originally assigned to Cerialis, has now been removed from this