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The Bu Njem Ostraca


Principia. Photo Marco Prins.
The basilica in the Principia, seen from the place where the ostraca were found
Gholaia: Roman fort, part of the Limes Tripolitanus, modern Bu Njem.
 
Part 1 Part 2 Inscriptions Ostraca

The Roman fort at Gholaia (Bu Njem) was built to protect an oasis and belongs to the Limes Tripolitanus. During the excavations, 146 documents were discovered, written on sherds ("ostraca"). They were written in vulgar (non-literary) Latin by four clerks, who must have belonged to the Third legion Augusta. They can be dated to 254-c.259. In the official publication, they are divided into five categories.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The Principia of Bu Njem. Photo Marco Prins.
The Principia of Bu Njem
  1. 62 daily reports (#1-#62)
  2. 4 lists (#63-#66)
  3. 7 accounts (#67-#73)
  4. 44 letters received (#74-#117)
  5. 28 other documents (#118-#145)
Document #146 was written in Punic. Below, you will find three examples. Go to this page if you want to know more about the way the text is published over here.

Document 71 (an account):


 
 

5

<...>NOVEMBris INTROIERVNT
GARAMANTES DVCENTES ASINOS Nvmero IIII
ET AEGIPTIOS Nvmero II FERENTES LIT
TERAS AT TE GTASAZEIHEME OPTER
SERVV FVGITIVV
On the <...>th of November, the Garamantes arrived, bringing four asses and two Egyptians carrying letters to you, Gtasazeiheme Opter, with a runaway slave.

Document 36 (a report):


 
 

5

MISSVS AD LIGNVM BALNEI
ADSERVATOR
AEGRI
IVLIVS IANVARIVS
CAECILIVS <...>
I
I
IIII

 
 

5

Sent out to cut wood for the bathhouse
Guard duty
On sick leave
Julius Januarius
Caecilius <...>
1
2
4

Document 5 (another report):

  XVI KALendas IVLias Nvmervs
LXXXXVI
TIRONES Nvmervs
LXIIII
IN HIS EQvites
III
QVINTANARI
XXII
5 AD BALNEVM
VIII
DE SPECtacvLIS
I
AD PRAEPOSITVM
I
AD STationem CAMELLARiorvm
I
OPTIO
I
10 ITEM RVFVS
I
AEGRI
IIII
EXCVSANTVR
XXVIII
RELIQVI MVNIFICES
XXVI
BALNEVS ACCIPIT
15 <...>

 
 

5
 
 
 

10
 
 
 

15

16 June, number
Number of recruits
of which cavalry
quintanari
To the bathhouse
From the shows
To the commander of the auxiliaries
To the dromedaries' station
Optio
item Rufus
On sick leave
Exempted
Other details
The bathhouse received
Illegible
96
64
3
11
8
1
1
1
1
1
4
28
26

Literature

  • Robert Marichal, Les Ostraca de Bu Njem (1992 Tripoli = Libya Antiqua, suppl.9).
  • Jona Lendering, "Sherds from the Desert. The Bu Njem Ostraca" in: Ancient Warfare 1/2 (2007)
Part 1 Part 2 Inscriptions Ostraca
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 16 May 2009
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