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5 - Malt, malsters and malting at Vindolanda (tablets 191, 343, 348, 646).
Braces means a cereal processed for the production of beer (three occurences in the tablets: see the editors on T. 343.25). Pliny knows that the word Braces was used in Gaul, for which he gives sandala as a familiar Italic synonym: "Galliae quoque suum genus Farris dedere, quod illic bracem uocant, apud nos scandalam, nitidissimi grani" (Nat. Hist. XVIII.11, De farre. "The Gauls also have their own kind of far, which is called brace, in our country sandala. The grain is very white"). Sandala is itself a non-literary word foreign to the Latin world. It has been romanized in Northern Italy and in the Iberian Peninsula. Braces was for Pliny a linguistic curiosity (a provincialism); but in Vindolanda it is a common word referring to an ordinary daily reality. The tablets confirm that braces has no Latin root. Bracis is assimilated by Pliny to "far" (spelt / eincorn). However, the Vindolanda texts give another meaning. Bracis exists in Old Irish and survives in Old French, a further indication of its Gallic / Celtic origin. For the writers of the tablets, bracis is a Celtic word. Braces means "brewery ingredient" for the TGL (" Braces sunt unde fit cervisia ") and "malt" in the Anglo-Saxon glossaries. The technical link between beer and braces becomes obvious.
Another clue is given by the tablet no. 646 which names a braciarius. The Celtic root bracis refers to the malt for brewing, as inferred from its Irish, Welsh and Cornish representatives. Bracis has many derivatives, for example the old French "brais" for "grains prepared for brewing beer". The verb *braciare also refers to the same semantic domain and means "to brew, to prepare grains for brewing". In medieval dictionaries, a wide range of technical terms derive from braciare, all associated with brewing: braciarius itself, braciator, braciatrix, braciatorium, braciare, braciarium, braciatura. See § 6 for the compound words [radical]-arius having the meaning of a craftsman involved in the production or care of [radical]. If Braces meant a simple cereal, the derivative braciatura-arius denoting a profession would be useless. There is no specific occupation that deals with a particular cereal. Brace(s) or Bracis means a cereal processed by malting (barley, wheat, oats, spelt, rye, etc.) and its derivatives the profession of maltster or brewer and the equipment required for malting or brewing.
T. 646 is a letter: « Montanus to Optatus, his brother, greetings ... if you have the opportunity to sell ... I pray that you are in good health ... Farewell. (Verso) To Vindolanda. To Optimus the malster from Montanus his brother. » (Bowman, Thomas 2003, 102).
Another Celtic term, ceruesa (beer), has its derivative ceruesarius (brewer). The Celtic origin of the word ceruesa suggests that the brewing was the business of the local population. Since the related Celtic words bracis and its later medieval continuators are so strongly related to the activities of the brewery, we conclude that bracis in Vindolanda was a processed grain used specifically for beer. Bracis refers to malt, but also to grains prepared for the brewing process, such as beer loaves or breads and other cooked semolina. Cooking the starch from raw grains is an unavoidable technical step in brewing beer. These cooked grains complement the malt, which is long and expensive to make.
The braciarius is not merely a grain merchant, but the one who supplies brewers with brewing raw materials and semi-finished products such as malt. It can be assumed that the trade of the ceruesarius was more general than that of the braciarius, denoting the contractor who supervises the whole brewery and the supply of the finished product. The Braciarius names the contractor who works on the production of Braces. The ceruesarius can be translated as brewer-merchant of beer, Braciarius as malter (Adams 2003, 563), with the reservation above (malt is not the only supply for the brewer). The tablet 595.3-4 would speak of a braciarium = malthouse, but its reading is uncertain and the text is lacunar (Bowman, Thomas 2003, 52-53; Max Nelson's suggestion).
The tablet 191 is a record of meat, malt (braces) and other commodities. It probably refers to the domestic administration of the praetorium. For preatorium, see the introduction of tablet 194 on page vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/TVII-194. On line 16, bracis appears for an unknown volume (in modii) or value (in denarii).
|1||] in p[||"in ...|
|2||]s (denarios) [||... denarii ...|
|4||capream [||roe deer ...|
|5||salis .[||of salt ...|
|6||porcellum [||piglet ...|
|7||pernam .[||ham ...|
|8||in p[||in ...|
|9||frumen[ti||of wheat ...|
|11||in p.[||in ...|
|12||ad condit[||for spice (?)|
|13||caprea[||roe deer ...|
|14||[[s(umma) (denarii) [ ]]||[[total, denarii ...]]|
|15||?s(umma) (denarii) xx [||total, denarii 20+|
|16||bracis .[||of malt ...|
|17||(denarios) i[||denarii ...|
|18||.um[||total (?) ..."|
The tablet 348 is a fragment of a letter concerning the sale of malt. The reading of brace on line 2 is ensured. After this word, the construction seems to require quam, but the reading of the letters qu is uncertain.
|1||traces fecisse c..[||… to have done [|
|2||de brace qu.. adscribis uen-||about the malt, which you are assigning|
|3||dendam adhuc mem...em||for sale ...|
The tablet 343 is a complete letter from Octavius to Candidus concerning the supply of wheat, malt, skins and sinews. This letter is filled with Latin business terms and references to entrepreneurial activity. The sums of money and quantities of goods involved are substantial. Candidus is claimed 500 denarii and Octavius hired 300 denarii (a year's pay for one miles gregarius at that time). Both Octavius and Candidus were involved in supplying goods on a large scale and in a military context. 5000 modii of cereals and hides by the hundreds can hardly be expected for another market. Octavius, whoever he is, buys grain from local sources. The hides must come from the military sector, as the tanneries could not operate on this scale outside its control. The reference to the hides coming from Cataractonium coincides with the archaeological discovery of a large tannery operating there between the years 85 and 120. Birley (1994, 60) suggested that the people mentioned by the tablet must have been centurions of the legion.
The full translation of this long letter provides the necessary context to understand how bracis excussi should refer to « malt without rootlets », and not to beaten emmer or an unknown cereal. This translation is given by the Vindolanda Tablets website vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/TVII-343. As bracis means the « malt » (see above), the "excussi" means a (green) malt that is beaten or shaken to remove its dried rootlets. The bracis excussi is used as a premium product for the brewery. The latin word "excussi" comes from "exccutio" which means "to shake, to hit (something), to pull out (of something)". The operation refers to the threshing of the raw grain or ears, but also to the threshing of the dried sprouted grains (the malt). Excutio is not a technical term for threshing. Its general meaning is "to separate part of a harvest from the rest by shaking, rubbing or pressing". In the case of malt, the germinated grains are spread in a thin layer for air drying, then beaten or rubbed between the hands to remove the dry rootlets. The resulting malt is then delivered to the brewers. The open-air threshing floor is perfectly suited to this operation: beating, shaking or rubbing the dried malt to remove the undesirable rootlets that give the beer a very unpleasant bitterness. Octavius could be a maltster, or act as a malt supplier, in addition to being a grain merchant. His letter speaks of 119 modii of finished malt, i.e. 1,026 litres.
« Octavius to his brother Candidus, greetings. The hundred pounds of sinew from Marinus - I will settle up. From the time when you wrote about this matter, he has not even mentioned it to me. I have several times written to you that I have bought about five thousand