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Impearls: The 1,905th anniversary of 9-11

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Earthdate 2005-09-11

The 1,905th anniversary of 9-11

Fresco: Woman muses with writing stylus, Pompeii, 1st century AD

Today is the fourth anniversary of September 11, 2001, when suicide murderers hijacked four American airliners and used three of them to demolish the towers of the World Trade Center and surroundings in New York City and attack the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. — while the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field as a result of a passenger revolt — causing some 3,000 deaths.  May the victims rest in peace, while the perpetrators and their allies and helpers writhe in hell.

Beyond its recent connotation, however, “9-11” is also the anniversary of a lesser known but perhaps more significant event in the history of humanity, which occurred around 1,905 years ago, also on September 11 in the Julian calendar of that era.  Women no doubt have been literate and writing far longer than 1,900 years — see the above stunning image, for instance, a fresco from destroyed Pompeii, of a woman wearing a stylish Roman hairdo of the 1st century a.d., while holding a pen and journal (or rather, stylus and “book” of Roman writing tablets), as she contemplates what she wishes to put down.  Though the above painting is suggestive and terrific, no demonstrable writings by women dated prior to the document illustrated below-right have survived from antiquity.

Earliest example of woman's writing in Latin, Roman wooden writing tablet, Vindolanda, c. 100 AD Around 100 a.d., a woman named Claudia Severa, wife of a garrison commander in the far north of the Roman province of Britannia (Roman Britain), in a letter to her friend, Sulpicia Lepidina, also wife of a garrison commander at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, on Hadrian's Wall which separated Roman Britain from what is now Scotland, sent her the following birthday invitation, written on the wooden writing tablets common at the time: 1

Claudia Severa to her Lepidina, greetings.  I send you a warm invitation to come to us of September 11th, for my birthday celebrations, to make the day more enjoyable by your presence.  Give my greetings to your Cerialis.  My Aelius greets you and your sons.  I will expect you, sister.  Farewell sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and greetings.

While the more formal portion of the letter was apparently taken down by a garrison scribe (other documents in the same handwriting have also been found at the fort), the personal closing appears to have been written in Claudia's own hand.

We see that Claudia Severa's birthday was September 11.  Happy Birthday, Claudia!  (If it seems odd to say that to a person almost two millennia dead, see Impearls' posting here, where it's pointed out that, according to modern physics, everyone who ever lived still lives in a very real sense today — far from us across the chasm of time.)

To recall again the latter-day significance of “9-11,” now we know why the 9-11 terrorists chose that particular day to strike — those misogynist jihadists intended to inverse-commemorate and show their contempt for the dawn (to history anyway) of uppity, literate women!  I'm joking, but only somewhat: in spirit the modern-day Islamofascist jihadists do show everywhere, every day just how they despise educated, capable and independent women.  In my view, one way we can show our love for our smart, cultured women is by defending them against such low-lifes and defeating those who would reenslave them.

 

Dedicated to my mother, always an independent woman, 92 years old today.  Happy birthday, Mom!
 
 

UPDATE:  2005-09-18 16:50 UT:  History Carnival XVI hosted this time by Orac's Respectful Insolence blog has linked to this piece.
 

References

1 Chris Scarre, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome, 1995, Penguin Books Ltd., London (ISBN 0-14-0-51329-9); p. 78.

See also this piece from Natalie Bennett's intriguing blog Philobiblon, which scooped me last month (since I was waiting for 9-11 to post) on this subject.  Since I distributed a message to family members half a year ago, however, along these lines (my mother's birthday is also 9-11), I can console myself that I actually scooped Natalie!

The foregoing link points to this terrific site, the “Vindolanda Tablets Online,” which includes the original Latin text, photographs and details on all the Roman tablets which have almost-miraculously survived two millennia of decay and destruction at the old Roman fort, including the one we've been discussing, shown above, and here: Tablet 291.

While on the subject of Hadrian's Wall in the far north of Roman Britain, don't miss Impearls' earlier piece on The Builders of Hadrian's Wall.



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