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DE FEMINIS ROMANIS

Vindolanda Letter of Claudia Severa

One of the letters found at Vindolanda, a Roman military installation constructed near Hadrian's Wall in Britain. These letters are on thin strips of wood and written in ink. The first part of the text, a birthday invitation, was written by a professional scribe but lines 11-14 were probably written by Claudia Severa herself (as one often adds a personal message to a card or invitation), making this possibly the earliest actual identifiable example of a woman's handwriting in Latin. The strips were folded, forming a kind of note card. The back contains the address and return address. The text is based on that of Alan K. Bowman and J. David Thomas (Britannia 18:137-40 and Plate xvi, 1987).

side 1

Cl Seuera Lepidinae [suae]
[sa]l[u]tem
Iii Idus septembr[e]s soror ad diem
sollemnem natalem meum rogo
libenter facias ut uenias
ad nos iucundiorem mihi

side 2

[diem] interuentu tuo factura si
[uenie]s
cerial[em tu]um saluta aelius meus
et filiolus salutant
sperabo te soror
uale soror anima
mea ita ualeam
karissima et haue

back

sulpicae lepidinae
[flaui]i cerialis
[a se]uera

Text with modern punctuation and orthography:

Claudia Severa Lepidinae suae salutem.

iii Idus Septembres, soror, ad diem sollemnem natalem meum rogo libenter facias ut venias ad nos iucundiorem mihi diem interventu factura si venies. Cerialem tuum saluta. Aelius meus et filiolus salutant.

Sperabo te, soror. Vale, soror, anima mea, ita valeam, carissima, et have.

Notes (to accompany the first text):

2 iii Id. Sept. September 11
3 salutem is the usual greeting (or salutation) in a Roman letter: the formula is: the sender's name in the nominative, the recipient's name in the dative with suo or suae (to show affection) followed by salutem (with dicit understood).
4 sollemnis appointed, for celebration: ad diem sollemnem natalem meum to my birthday party
5 libenter gladly, sincerely (adverb with rogo)
facias jussive noun clause with rogo
ut venias substantive clause of result with facias
6 iucundus, -a, -um pleasant, agreeable
7 interventus, -us, m. arrival, attendance, coming
9 saluta imperative "Say hi to..."
10 filiolus < filius (a diminutave)
salutant send their greetings
11 sperabo te I will expect you. "I'm looking forward to seeing you."
12-14 vale...ita valeam perhaps a variation of si vales bene est ego valeo. "Be well, so may I be well." Claudia then uses have (instead of the usual vale) as her closing (or valediction).
16 flavii cerialis wife of Flavius Cerialis (Mrs. Flavius Cerialis)

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