Friday, October 31, 2008

'farewell sister, my dearest soul'

Birthday invitation from Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Lepidina
Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings. On 11 September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival, if you are present (?). Give my greetings to your Cerialis. My Aelius and my little son send him (?) their greetings. (2nd hand) I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail. (Back, 1st hand) To Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of Cerialis, from Severa.

Letter from Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Lepidina
... greetings. Just as I had spoken with you, sister, and promised that I would ask Brocchus and would come to you, I asked him and he gave me the following reply, that it was always readily (?) permitted to me, together with .... to come to you in whatever way I can. For there are certain essential things which .... you will receive my letters by which you will know what I am going to do .... I was ... and will remain at Briga. Greet your Cerialis from me. (Back, 2nd hand) Farewell my sister, my dearest and most longed-for soul. (1st hand) To Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of Cerialis, from Severa, wife of Brocchus (?).
These are fragments from letters by the wife of a British officer who was serving on Hadrian's wall during the Roman occupation of Britain in the early centuries of the Christian era. They were found in excavations of a fort called Vindolanda. The British Museum has a web page about the archeological collection from which they come and there's a well-designed site at Oxford University which reproduces the contents of the collection and provides transcriptions such as the ones I've given above. Here's the logo:
Vindolanda Tablets Online

The site says, in part:
The Vindolanda writing tablets, written in ink on post-card sized sheets of wood, have been excavated at the fort of Vindolanda, immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Dating to the the late first and early second centuries AD, the formative period of Roman Britain’s northern frontier, they were written by and for soldiers, merchants, women and slaves. Through their contents, life in one community on the edge of the Roman world can be reconstructed in detail. This exhibition introduces the tablets, drawing on information from the documents themselves and archaeological evidence from Vindolanda and elsewhere.
Here are some links to sub-pages of the site:
- Vindolanda and its setting – the excavations and a site tour
- History of Vindolanda
- Forts and military life – the fort and the lives of soldiers

- People – officers, men, families and civilians at Vindolanda
- Documents – writing and learning Latin

- Reading the tablets – alphabets, scripts and reading the texts

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