'Chrauttius to Veldeius his brother and old messmate, very many greetings.
And I ask you, brother Veldeius - I am surprised that you have written nothing back to me for such a long time - whether you have heard anything from our elders, or about [Name]in which unit he is; and greet him from me in my words and Virilis the veterinary doctor. Ask him whether you may send me through one of our friends the pair of shears which he promised me in exchange for money.'
So writes a Roman soldier, stationed on the wild northern frontier in about AD 100, to his friend in London. Over three hundred such letters and documents have been discovered at the fort of Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall, written on wooden tablets which have amazingly survived nearly 2,000 years. Painstakingly deciphered by Alan Bowman and J. David Thomas, they have contributed a wealth of evidence for daily life in the Roman Empire.
From the military documents we learn of the strength and activities of the units stationed at Vindolanda. The accounts testify to the lifestyle of officers and ordinary soldiers, with payments for pepper and oil, towels and tallow, boots and beer. Then there are snapshots of domestic life in letters between the officers' wives, including a birthday invitation. Most fascinating of all is the evidence for a high level of literacy in the Roman army, where even someone of humble rank receives a letter from home promising him a parcel of socks.
Alan Bowman's lively summary of this new evidence is followed by the text of fifty key tablets, in Latin and in translation, bringing the reader very close to the actual people who inhabited Vindolanda in AD 100. This new edition has been fully updated to take account of the most recent discoveries, and includes new translations of tablets found between 1991-1994. Life and Letters on the Roman Frontier won the British Archaeological Book Award in 1998.
About the author
Alan K. Bowman is Camden Professor of Ancient History and Fellow of Brasenose College, University of Oxford.
1st Pb edition1998, Pb, 179pp, with 20 black and white illustrations and 3 maps, 17 x 24 cm