Memos. Inter-office memos never change.
The Roman fort at Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain, is a special place. One reason it is so special is that a collection of wooden writing tablets were preserved there, accidentally, in waterlogged ditches. These tablets were used for everyday matters—personal letters, shopping lists, legionary paperwork—and give us a glimpse into the daily life of the Roman army in a way we rarely get. Here’s an example, a message from the leader of a detachment of cavalry back to his commander at the fort, which may feel depressingly familiar:
To Prefect Flavius Cerialis
From Decurion Masclus
Masclus to his lord, Cerialis, greetings.
My lord, please send us your instructions for tomorrow. Should we all return to the crossroads with our standard or just half of us?
Best of fortune to you and may you look on me with favor. Farewell.
PS. My fellow soldiers are out of beer. Please have some sent.
– Tabulae Vindolandenses III 632
Sucking up to the boss. Not getting clear instructions. Needing beer. Some things just never change.
Image: Roman army reenactors, photograph by ChrisO via Wikimedia, text by Erik Jensen
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