Код статьиS032103910012566-5-1
Тип публикации Статья
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Аффилиация: Complutense University of Madrid
Адрес: Spain, Madrid

This article analyses the personal names that appear in texts inscribed on slate tablets from Visigothic Hispania (sixth to eighth centuries AD). The texts were found at rural sites clustered around the borders between the provinces of Salamanca, Ávila and the north of Cáceres, in areas about which the historical sources are largely silent. Here, I shall analyse the kind of text in which these personal names appear and how these latter are presented. In some cases, the slates simply contain lists of names, probably of farmers who worked the land, but in others they give the names of sellers, buyers, judges or witnesses to legal documents, some of whom wrote their names and signs in their own hand. I shall also analyse the origin of the names, which is mainly Graeco-Roman or Gothic. The presence of names of diverse origin in the same documents, especially in those dealing with agricultural matters, may perhaps indicate the existence of a mixed population. Lastly, I shall also consider names of Hebrew origin, which on these slates almost always refer to biblical characters or angels.

Ключевые словаVisigothic slates, personal names of Graeco-Roman origin, personal names of Gothic origin, Signatures and signatories, witness subscriptions, Farmers, rural society, Biblical names
Кол-во символов45745
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The so-called “Visigothic slates” comprise a collection of mainly sixth, seventh and eighth century texts found in the Central Plateau of modern Spain, in settlements scattered around the borders between the provinces of Ávila, Salamanca and the north of Cáceres. However, slate tablets have also been found in other areas and from other periods, including two fifth century curse tablets (defixiones) discovered near Braga (Portugal), the tenth century “Carrio” slate in Asturias and several ninth century pieces in Andorra.

2 There are three types of inscribed tablet: slates with text, slates with numerical signs and slates with very varied drawings including representations of animals, buildings, agricultural tools and human figures. These latter in particular have yet to receive sufficient study.
3 Slate is a soft material on which signs can easily be inscribed or scratched and it has been used as a writing medium throughout history, although it was not the most common medium in antiquity or the Middle Ages. By way of example, inscribed slate tablets have been found at various sites in Huelva and Córdoba (dated to the first to third centuries AD), and at the Irish monastery of Smarmore (Louth Country) (thirteenth and fifteenth centuries); however, despite their interest, these still await detailed study1. 1. On this subject, see Velázquez Soriano 2020 (in press), with previous bibliography.
4 Here, I shall discuss the slate texts written during the Visigothic period in the above-mentioned area. Most of these slates were not uncovered during archaeological excavations, but instead were found on the surface in rural settings2. Although some archaeological excavations have revealed a Visigothic context, the slates have often been found without a clear location that could provide information on their function. Unfortunately, the majority are fragmentary: there are virtually no complete pieces and some retain so little text that they offer negligible information about their exact content. 2. Only two small fragments have been found in urban areas in Visigothic archaeological contexts, one of which —still unpublished— comes from the city of Ávila, while the other is from the city of Toledo. On this latter, see the edition by I. Velázquez Soriano in CIL II2/13, 78, cf. Alföldy, G., Abascal J. M. (eds.) 2019.
5 Nevertheless, these slates comprise documents of exceptional value. With the exception of conventional epigraphy, they are virtually the only original documents to survive from sixth and seventh century Visigothic Hispania, and they therefore provide us with valuable information about the type of script in use at the time. This was the “new common Roman cursive”, although some elements of the so-called “Visigothic cursive writing” are also evident3. Apart from the well-known manuscripts of Autun 27 and 1074, possibly the codex of the “Camarín de las Reliquias” (El Escorial)5, and the Verona Orational (c. 700)6, very few manuscripts in Visigothic script survive from the seventh century: most are of a later date, generally from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. Meanwhile, the only documents to have been preserved are the parchment charters discovered in the National Historical Archive and studied by Mundó7. 3. Del Camino Martínez 1990, 29-37; Alturo i Perucho 2004, 347-386; Velázquez Soriano 2006, 109-119; Velázquez Soriano 2012, 15-53.

4. Robinson 1939.

5. Codex written in uncial script, containing some fragments written in Visigothic cursive. Held in the El Escorial Library (without number). See Lowe 1966, vol. 11, no. 1628b.

6. Vivancos 2006, 121-144.

7. Mundó Marcet 1970. Recently edited in Calleja-Puerta, Ostos-Salcedo, Pardo Rodríguez and Sanz Fuentes 2018, nos. 1-5.
6 Another reason why these slate texts are so important is that they offer an exceptional insight into the agricultural economy and everyday life of Visigothic Spain. They include sales documents, court statements and other legal documents (placita) and even a private letter (epistula). Others are of a religious nature —generally psalms— and may have served an educational purpose, and there are also defixiones and texts of an apparently magical nature. Some list the names of animals, agricultural products and even clothing, while another large group of slates gives the names of farmers, who must have paid taxes in kind or have received some products.
7 These texts also provide evidence of the value ascribed in the Visigothic period to scriptura and thus to written legal documents. This is already attested to by Visigothic laws8 and formularies9, but the legal documents preserved on slate demonstrate that it was common practice to record private transactions in writing. In the words of P. Riché10: 8. Leges Visigothorum (= LV), cf. Zeumer 1902. See LV 2.1.5, 2.1.6, 2.5, 5.4.3. See also Codex Euricianus (= CE 286) cf. D’Ors 1960. On this subject, see Zeumer 1944, 166-170; Petit 1983, 168-169; Marlasca 1998, 563-584.

9. Formulae Visigothicae, cf. Zeumer 1886; Gil 1972.

10. Riché 1962, 60.
8 D’autres faits montrent que l’écrit joue toujours un rôle important dans la vie de ces royaumes barbares… Dans le domaine commercial les échanges exigent toujours un minimum d’écritures et lorsqu’il arrive que des marchands soient illettrés, ils ont des ecribes qui les aident dans leurs comptes et leur correspondance. Les ventes, comme les donations et testaments, ne se conçoivent pas sans la rédaction d’un acte dont la valeur n’est plus simplement probatoire, mais tend à devenir dispositive.



We do not know the names of those who inscribed the texts, the scriptores or scribae, and in some cases, several hands appear in the same document. In contrast, however, the names of the signatories of the legal documents are sometimes given, enabling us to identify the people involved in the transactions being recorded. It is highly likely that many of the people whose names are recorded on the slates were unable to read or write, and of these we know only their names or the minimal references given in the texts.

10 The Visigothic kings can be identified, but their names are always included as part of the dating clause, not as part of the text content. Biblical names —nomina sacra— also appear in texts of a religious or magical nature, phylacteries and defixiones. Sometimes, individuals’ professions are indicated, as in the case of the iudices or uicarii, but for most people mentioned on the slates, we have no further information other than their names. However, the context in which these names are transmitted tells us something about the reasons why they were recorded on the slates.

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