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  • Susan Stoderl

A First Century Birthday Invitation | Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Cerialis


Detail from roman fort of Vindolanda and the British Museum

Sometime between the years 97-103 CE, Claudia Severa invited her sister Sulpicia Lepedina Cerialis to come to her birthday celebration on the third day before the Ides of September (September 11). She sent greetings to her sister’s husband Cerialis. She also sent greetings from her husband Aelius and her son. A scribe wrote most of the Latin text, but scholars believe the second person’s writing was that of Claudia.


The two different writers appear on remnants of a wooden writing tablet found near the Roman fort of Vindolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort south of Hadrian’s Wall. Excavations show Vindolanda was under Roman occupation from roughly 85 AD to 370 AD. It is close to the modern village of Bardon Mill in Northumberland. The purpose of the fort was to guard the Roman road from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.


Below is a translation:


(In scribe’s handwriting) Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings.
On 11 September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival, if you are present. Give my greetings to your Cerialis. My Aelius and my little son send him their greetings.
(Claudia’s writing) I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.
(Back to scribe’s writing) To Sulpicia Lepidina, (wife) of Cerialis, from Cl. Severa.

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