Ancient Roman "MPs" were first for expenses scandal

ANCIENT Roman writing tablets found near Hadrian's Wall, suggest public officials were on the take 1,900 years ago.

No floating duck ponds, second homes allowances or bath plugs in sight -but sinew, ears of grain, high priced leatherware and lavish entertainment.

Writing tablets, dating from the Second Century, uncovered at Vindolanda - the Roman encampment near Hadrian's Wall - detail hundreds of expenses claims and receipts concerning the soldiers stationed there and lavish parties thrown by their Commanding Officer.

Five of the tablets - translated by Professor Tony Birley - contain 111

lines detailing entertainment claims at the camp.

Among the items detailed are a hundred pounds of sinew, hobnails for boots, bread, cereals, hides, and pigs.

One official or merchant makes an urgent plea for funds: "As to the 100 pounds of sinew from Marinus-I will settle up. From when you wrote about this he has not even mentioned it to me.

"I have written to you several times that I have bought ears of grain, about 5,000 modii, on account of which I need denarii-unless you send me something, at least 500 denarii, I will lose what I have given as a down payment, about 300 denarii, and will be embarrassed, so I ask you: send me some denarii as soon as possible."

More than 400 tablets were discovered at the site and are the earliest

example of the written word in Britain.