Writing-tablet with a letter of appeal
Roman Britain, late 1st or early 2nd century BC
Vindolanda Roman fort (modern Chesterholm), Northumberland
The letter was intended for the governor of the province, since the unit commander had been unavailable for help. The writer, who seems to be a civilian, appears to be seeking redress for a beating he had received, apparently unjustly. Neither the beating nor the appeal is surprising, as other sources frequently refer both to arbitrary and severe beatings handed out by the military, in particular by centurions, and to vain attempts to secure justice from others in the military hierarchy.
' ... he beat (?) me all the more ... goods ... or pour them down the drain (?). As befits an honest man (?) I implore your majesty not to allow me, an innocent man, to have been beaten with rods and, my lord, inasmuch as (?) I was unable to complain to the prefect because he was detained by ill-health I have complained in vain (?) to the beneficiarius and the rest (?) of the centurions of his unit. Accordingly (?) I implore your mercifulness not to allow me, a man from overseas, and an innocent one, about whose good faith you may inquire, to have been bloodied by rods as if I had committed some crime.'
A.K. Bowman, Life and letters on the Roman (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)