Writing-tablet with a letter from the entrepreneur Octavius to Candidus
Roman Britain, late 1st or early 2nd century AD
Vindolanda Roman fort (modern Chesterholm), Northumberland
This is the most impressive and extensive letter found at Vindolanda so far. It is a business letter from Octavius, an entrepreneur supplying goods on a considerable scale to the Roman army. Judging by the form of the script, a number of mis-spellings, and offsets (caused when the leaves were folded before the ink had dried), it was written in haste. He uses a colloquial style, with a variety of financial and technical terms.
'Octavius to his brother Candidus, greetings. The hundred pounds of sinew from Marinus - I will settle up. From the time when you wrote about this matter, he has not even mentioned it to me. I have several times written to you that I have bought about five thousand modii of ears of grain, on account of which I need cash. Unless you send me some cash, at least five hundred denarii, the result will be that I shall lose what I have laid out as a deposit, about three hundred denarii, and I shall be embarrassed. So, I ask you, send me some cash as soon as possible. The hides which you write are at Cataractonium. - write that they be given to me and the wagon about which you write. And write to me what is with that wagon. I would have already been to collect them except that I did not care to injure the animals while the roads are bad. See with Tertius about the 8½ denarii which he received from Fatalis. He has not credited them to my account. Know that I have completed the 170 hides and I have 119 modii of threshed bracis. Make sure that you send me cash so that I may have ears of grain on the threshing-floor. Moreover, I have already finished threshing all that I had. A messmate of our friend Frontius has been here. He was wanting me to allocate (?) him hides and that being so, was ready to give cash. I told him I would give him the hides by 1 March. He decided that he would come on 13 January. He did not turn up nor did he take any trouble to obtain them since he had hides. If he had given the cash, I would have given him them. I hear that Frontinius Iulius has for sale at a high price the leather ware (?) which he bough here for five denarii apiece. Greet Spectatus and ... and Firmus. I have received letters from Gleuco. Farewell.
Back: (Deliver) at Vindolanda.'
A.K. Bowman, Life and letters on the Roman (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)