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 ARLT Summer School 2004



  Held at Sedbergh School

  Directed by Ms H Walters

Sulpicia to Helena


pace Vindolanda Tablets Online


The following piece of verse was written for and recited at the entertainment at the end of the 2004 ARLT Summer School. It purports to be a letter discovered (among all the others) at Vindolanda, and refers to the famous party invitation discovered written on a wooden writing tablet at that fort. It also draws on insights into the life of women on Hadrian's Wall contained in a lecture by Lindsay Allason-Jones, given during the Summer School:


Sulpicia Lepidea to Helena, with greetings


How I recall your house in Rome, and all our chats and meetings,

Your lovely garden too which seems a thousand miles away

And all the fun we had one warm, bright winter's day.

I remember specially fish-cakes - I never could resist 'em,

And hope that all went well with your improved new heating system.


You'd like Britannia as much as I do I am sure,

It's got lots of rocks and bogs and what the locals call a "moor".

And fells and fogs and becks and dales and crags and gills and such.

I'd tell you more in detail, but I don't get out too much.

The ground is soft and yielding, but we lose a lot of shoes,

And throw the other one away as they just come in twos.


The locals here are quite distinctive, if a little scary.

I saw some Picts the other day and they were blue and hairy.

You see all sorts of other people in and round the fort,

Though we don't socialise with them as much as perhaps we ought.

There's Sards and Celts and Calvarines and great big chaps from Gaul

But sadly, they don't seem to know the Latin tongue at all,

And neither do the Libyans, the Egyptians or the rest,

Except the dozen commonest obscenities at best.


But it's all local colour, and we're really awfully glad

To be sent up here now after the dreadful trip we had.

First the lepers, then the pirates, then the shipwreck and the rocks

But what good luck I hadn't packed my nicest Summer frocks.


I haven't got a garden, though the gorse is very pretty

And food's not quite as varied as one might have in the city.

The chef is wonderful and does such clever things with beans

So savoury, one quite forgets the smell from the latrines.

The shopping isn't excellent, but craftsmen are arriving

And in a decade, two perhaps, the place could well be thriving.


But I am happy here at Cerialis' left hand

Though he gets very busy and of course I understand

If he takes language lessons from the niece of Veretrix

He needs to interact with both Britons and Picts.

He says it's quite relaxing and he does love a nice talk

And he's glad I'm not one of those who watch him like a hawk.


The money that he gave her was so she could see the styles

Of the ladies' hair in Rome - there's no good hairdresser for miles.

He's troubled with irregular verbs, which I can well believe,

So they're going off to practise hard when he next gets some leave.


The sacrifices that man makes for Rome! While I remember

I've got an invitation for the 11th September.

A party for the Prefect's wife, an old and valued mate

An outing! It's my first one here, and I can hardly wait.


It's not that home's not pleasant, its familiar smoke and smells

It's cosy and we're lucky to have room for nothing else.

So just as well our furniture went down back in the Seine

And we're saved all the trouble of unpacking it again.


We're preparing for a raid, though, so I'd better finish now,

So I can see the raiders who have come to steal our cows.

Though who'd go rustling in this rain I cannot comprehend.

Goodbye for now. Wish you were here. Sulpicia, your friend.


Composed by Nick Gleeson

Recited by Rachel Thomas

Many more photos here

LECTURES


How to be a citizen in Ancient Greece; Roger Brock


Augustus, the benefactor of Mankind: Jeremy Paterson


Sumpotika: Peter Jones


Women of the Northern Frontier: Lindsay-Allason Jones


Why study Greek vase painting?

Homer:  Oliver Dickenson

Sulpicia to Helena

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