Tolsum writing tablet
Tolsum Writing-Tablet or Tabula Tolsummiana: oldest written text from the Netherlands.
In 1914, laborers digging in the "terp" (artificial dwelling hill) of Tolsum in the northern part of the Netherlands found a wooden writing-tablet. Because the people who had once used it, had pressed their stilus very hard, the letters could still be read as scratches in the wood, even though the original layer of wax has vanished long time ago.
The first scholar who tried to read it, C.W. Vollgraff, believed it was a contract about the sale of a cow, and dated it to the year 116 CE. Although his reading has become accepted and can be found in the Fontes Iuris Romani Antejustiniani (FIRA), there have always been serious doubts. In 2009, a new reading was proposed, and the writing-tablet turns out to be the second half of a loan-note.
Many details remain unclear. Is the name of the second signatory a Batavian with a native name, Miunnius, or did this man have the Roman name Marcus Junnius? Is Giricaemium a place name, or is it the name of a tribe ("among the Giricaemi"). Who is to receive what from whom?
... CARO IVLIAe SECVNDAE
|[I declare to have received ... from] Carus, [slave of] Julia Secunda, which I am obliged to pay back to him/her (or to whomsoever this matter pertains) on the day on which he/she shall ask for them. Transacted on 23 February at Giricaemium, in the consulship of Gaius Fufius Geminius. Quadratus acted as interpreter.|
|Titvs CASSIVS TRibvnvs LEGionis V
MIVNNIs MILes Nvmeri
|Titus Cassius, tribune of the Fifth Legion;
Miunnius, soldier of the Batavian auxiliaries, subunit of Bonumotus;
Caturix, slave of the said Secunda.
The name of Gaius Fufius Geminius is important. He was consul in 29 CE, together with Lucius Rubellius Geminus. The date is, therefore, 23 February 29, in the winter after the Frisian Revolt.note[Tacitus, Annals 4.72-74).] If this tablet is originally from Tolsum (and was not brought to the terp on a later date), the Romans regained control of the Frisians and restored normal economic relations within months.
This is corroborated by the excavation in Velsen, which was attacked during the Frisian revolt, but remained Roman and saw a new building phase almost immediately. Probably, Tacitus' statement that the emperor Tiberius accepted the loss of territory and suppressed the bad news,note[Tacitus, Annals 4.74).] is unfair: the Romans continued to control the northern coastlands.
- In May 2010, the journal of the Frisian Academy, It Beaken, published a special issue on the Tolsum Writing-Tablet, "Het geheim van Tolsum. Een herinterpretatie van een Romeins schrijfplankje". All articles are in Dutch, except for the most important one: A.K. Bowman & R.S.O. Tomlin, "The 'Frisian ox sale'. A writing-tablet from Tolsum", in It Beaken 71 (2009) 211-236.
- Another article is A.K. Bowman, R.S.O. Tomlin, K.A. Worp, "Emptio Bovis Frisica: the 'Frisian Ox Sale' Reconsidered", in the Journal of Roman Studies 99 (2009), 156–170.