Period I - c. AD85 - c. AD92

JohnBartram
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Joined: January 22nd, 2010, 12:25 pm

January 22nd, 2010, 1:04 pm #1

This is the reasoning for dating the period:
wrote:Dating Period I is inexact, but AD85 is certainly close. Firstly, envisioning the string of forts as a consequence of Agricola's recall puts them shortly after AD83-84. But the very best clue comes from the pottery, particularly the samian ware. Samian is the beautiful, glossy, red-orange fine ware so typical at sites all over the Roman world. Its styles -- and its makers, who often stamped their products -- can sometimes be dated to within a year or two. A shipment of dozens of unused samian bowls & plates was found in the lowest level of the fort ditch. They had all apparently been jostled & cracked en route from their source in southern Gaul. One can imagine the conversation between the trader and the garrison's quartermaster! At any rate, such a loss for the garrison was a boon for archaeologists. The samian includes none of the older Form 29 decorated bowls found in Agricolan (c. AD80) camps in Scotland. Instead, they consist of the "new" Form 37s, c. AD85+. The makers' stamps show them to be extremely early Form 37s, putting them almost certainly in the year or two following Agricola's recall.
Assuming the date for the Samian ware is correct, its presence at the bottom of a ditch is merely an indication and not hard evidence for the date of construction. It allows an earlier period.

More weight should be given to the content of the excavated texts, for content should always have priority over archaeological dating methods.

Vindolanda Inventory No. 29,31:
wrote:This text can now be recognised as a draft of a letter from Cerialis to Crispinus. The association with the correspondence of Cerialis is established by the identity of this hand with that of 227, where the name of Cerialis is to be found in the nominative. There are six other fragmentary texts (226,228-32) written by the same hand, and it may also be at work in the closure in 242.ii; see also 466. The hand, discussed in detail in the ed. pr., is very idiosyncratic and unlike those found in texts which we suppose to have been the work of "professional scribes"; for this reason we think it probable that it is the hand of Cerialis himself, although this cannot of course be proved.
and:
wrote:The terms in which Cerialis writes suggests that Crispinus is an important man (note line 6, d]ominum meum) and well-placed to assist an equestrian prefect by interceding with the governor. He might therefore be of senatorial status, a laticlave tribune or a legionary legate (cf. 154.5-6 note).
I would appreciate learning your expert opinion on the possibility that this Cerialis could be Quintus Petilius Cerialis Caesius Rufus, appointed governor of Britain in 71, campaigned against the Brigantes of northern England in 74 and in 74, left Britain and returned to Rome as suffect consul.

Thank you and
Best regards,
John
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

January 22nd, 2010, 6:46 pm #2

Hi John. Welcome to WeDig!

I'll take a first swing at this, and would love to see what Andy et al say.

AD 85 is so far the best bet for dating. The samian found in the ditch is tightly dated to about AD 85. Since it was at the very bottom of the ditch, and not deposited when it was silted up or backfilled, it shows that the Period I fort was in use about 85-86.

Now, in the late 70s Agricola was making his massive assault on Scotland. So there would be little reason or manpower to build Vindolanda while Agricola had mostly his whole army 100+ miles north. So the Period I fort was either built after the campaign was over (early to mid 80s) or before it began (early to mid 70s). To my knowledge, there hasn't been yet any residual pottery or artefact collection that would suggest a fort was there in the 70s. So the 80s still makes the best bet. (There are discussions currently that a "Period 0" fort might lie below. Vindolanda's location would have been ideal in the early stages of Agricola's campaigns. But to my knowledge the Period 0 idea is just a hypothesis, with no records or archaeology yet supporting it.)

The Cerialis connection is interesting. But the one from the Vindolanda tablets has been found to be one "Flavius Cerialis." He was commander of the fort in Period III. An enormous quantity of his personal records were discovered in a half-burnt bonfire from Period III levels in the 1990s. Thanks to them, we know more about him that about just about any other auxiliary commander of the era. He may well have been related to Petillius Cerialis (besides the name & the theatre of operation where they worked, they both were also Batavian nobility). But there's no sign that any of the Cerialis texts refer to Petillius.
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JohnBartram
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Joined: January 22nd, 2010, 12:25 pm

January 22nd, 2010, 10:26 pm #3

Many thanks for your detailed reply, which is both informative and helpful.

I agree that the firm date of the samian shows that the Period I fort was in use about 85-86 and though it does not show when it was built, I can understand the logic of early to mid 80s or early to mid 70s.

It's good to know that so much material has been recovered for Flavius Cerialis. Has this allowed identification with any of the high-ranking Romans with the cognomens Cerialis and Crispinus of the same period, in Rome?

Thanks again and
Best regards
John
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

January 23rd, 2010, 3:36 pm #4

I've scoured a few books and searched the Web. But I can't find detailed info on Flavius Cerialis after his cohort, the IX Batavians, departs Vindolanda. They left about AD 105, and were next seen in Dacia fighting for Trajan later that year. I can't tell whether Flavius was still their commander then, or what happened to him.

But I wouldn't be surprised if he had later Roman connections. The documents say that Flavius had reached the Roman rank of equestrian, meaning that he had built a family fortune worth over 100,000 denarii. He or his father had gained citizenship recently under the Flavians for some significant act, which means he had already made a name for himself amongst powerbrokers. He was chief of his tribe, and had learned pretty polished Latin. So it's very easy to see him or his relatives making waves in Rome for years afterward. (I don't know about Crispinus, so can't help with him.)
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