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Correspondence of Cerialis

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Tab. Vindol. II Introductory chapters

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Correspondence of Verecundus

Correspondence of Saecularis

Correspondence of Genialis

Correspondence of Cerialis

Correspondence of Lepidina

Correspondence of Priscinus

Correspondence of Lucius

Miscellaneous correspondence


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Digitising Vindolanda

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Correspondence of Cerialis: tablets 225-290

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 (234, 233), 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 ((225-232) 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 239 and another in 235 and 240 (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, cf. 285), Flavius Similis (254, 286), Iustinus (260), Hostilius Flavianus (261), Oppius Niger (249), Valerius Niger (248 cf. 465), Flavius Genialis (256), and Pastor (259). There are two probable centurions, Clodius Super and Imber (255, 258), and two decurions, Vitalis and Verus (263, 284). 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 255), 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 and 266, the despatch of letters in 263; 256 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 261 and 265 respectively.

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, 292 introduction). For other texts which may belong with this group see: 169, introduction, 347, 357, 362, 364, 373, 384, 403, 404, 406, 413, 423, 424, 430, 462, 466. Note also that Tab.Vindol.I 27 (= 519), originally assigned to Cerialis, has now been removed from this group.

Correspondence of Cerialis: tablets 225-290

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