vindolanda: a visual history


Introduction Roman Britain Community Economy and Transactions About

community at vindolanda

Three of the tablets found at Vindolanda (180, 181 and 344) have had their handwriting identified as belonging to the same author, who appears to be a businessman far away from his native home. Someone has poured his goods down a drain and beaten him, and in tablet 344, we find a plea he has written to the fort's prefect, in which he claims innocence and asks for this unfair treatment to be redressed. He identifies himself as a hominem transmarinus (overseas man) which suggests he might be from Germany or the Netherlands. In tablets 180 and 181, we find a ledger of loans and payments to individuals, and an account of wheat he has bought from suppliers and is rationing to individuals living at the fort - we see a wide variety of people included in these logs, including his father, a slave, and various Roman officers.
The diagram on the right shows a hypothetical reconstruction of the network of the "overseas man," though the viewer should be aware that the fragmentary nature of the logs means that this network diagram includes assumptions about names referring to the same individuals.
Two distinct clusters are visible. The one on the left, centered around the overseas man, consists primarily of people who would have lived and worked on the grounds of the fort on a day-to-day basis. The one on the right, centered around Octavius, includes business contacts who may have been mobile, moving between settlements and forts throughout Britain. A few interesting people include Spectatus and Firmus, military officers located between the two clusters who had authority on the grounds of the fort and with regards to its commerce. Another interesting individual is Tagamatis, perhaps a Spanish cavalryman, found on the wheat rationing log, and a "companion" who could possibly be his British girlfriend.

The overseas man's network of soldiers, traders, slaves and civilians

(from tablets 180, 181 and 344)

© 2014, Nikhil Mulani