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Uley 4

 Latin text
 English translation

Author: Biccus

Authority: Roger Tomlin

Publications: Britannia 19 (1988) 485-6, no 2



Rounded oblong cut from sheet lead, measuring 66 x 124mm, folded. Published in Britannia 19 (1988) 485-6, no 2. Inscribed short-axis with sixteen lines of ‘rustic capitals’, lines 1-12 with a blunt point (W profile), lines 12-16 (from ne) with a sharp point (V profile), by the same hand throughout. There are patches of corrosion, especially at the edges, but the text is well preserved.

The text is full of half-understood formulas (noted below), as might be expected from all the evidence of faulty transcription. There are three copying mistakes, pe(r)d(id)it (line 3), maiet (line 4), nessa (lines 9-10); and the use of quidquid (line 2) may be due to mechanical copying of a formulary. Ne taceat may have been omitted after ne loquatur; there is certainly an omission after de (line 13), and probably of habeat in line 9 and of a subject (the thief) for the string of verbs. The formula si vir si mascel (lines 3-4) is confused, and like the malapropism co(n)scientia (lines 12-13) raises the question of whether the scribe understood what he was writing. Yet his hand is practised and implies a good standard of literacy. His language also contains traces of the Vulgar, spoken Latin, in nessi (lines 9-10, 14), co(n)scientia (lines 12-13), and in the inept use of in (line 10) and de (line 13). By implication, therefore, he was familiar with Latin both written and spoken; but he was handling formulas he only half understood, or which perhaps were too familiar to retain much meaning.

n 1 Biccus dat M-
n 2 ercurio quidquid
n 3 pe(r)d(id)it si vir si m-
4 ascel ne meiat
5 ne cacet ne loqua- tur ne dormiat
6 n[e] vigilet nec s[a]-
7 [l]utem nec sa-
8 nitatem ne-
9 ss[i] in templo
10 Mercurii per- tulerit ne co(n)-
11 scientiam de
12 perferat ness[i]
n 13 me interceden-
14 te

1 biccus datm
2 ercurio quidquid
3 pedit siuirsi m
4 ascelnemaiet
5 necacet neloqua turnedormiat
6 n.uigiletnecs.
7 .uteninecsa
8 nitatemne
9 ssa intemplo
10 mercurii per tulerit neco
11 scientiamde
12 perferat ness.
13 meinterceden
14 te


      View the line notes

Biccus gives Mercury whatever he has lost (that the thief), whether man or male (sic), may not urinate nor defecate nor speak nor sleep nor stay awake nor [have] well-being or health, unless he bring (it) in the temple of Mercury; nor gain consciousness (sic) of (it) unless with my intervention.