The oldest writing in a woman's hand
I dragged myself out of bed early enough yesterday to finally make another British Museum gallery talk, this on "multicultural Roman Britain", which debunked more than a few historical myths and was absolutely fascinating. More on the broader themes later today if I get time.
But I wanted to devote a post of its own to a wonderful piece that gets no special attention in the gallery but which does, I'd suggest, deserve it.
It is one of the Vindolanda tablets, the hoard of letters found in the fort of that name on Hadrian's Wall that preserves the details of the everyday life of the garrison and their wives.
(Do check out the above link by the way - it is a model of archeaology on the web.)
One is a letter from Claudia Severa, wife of Aelius Brochus, the Vindolanda fort commander, to Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of the commander of a neighbouring fort. Most of the invitation to the birthday party is written by the garrison scribe, no doubt to Claudia's dictation - his hand can be identified from other examples - but there's a three-line personal note on the end in which Claudia adds a personal touch:
I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.
(Sister seems to have been a term of endearment, rather than an expression of a family relationship.)
The gallery talk speaker, Sam Moorhead, suggested that this is the oldest surviving writing known to be in a woman's hand -- it is dated to between AD97 and 103 -- which sounds about right to me. Can anyone think of an earlier example?