I’m having a hard time believing this is real, but April 1st was a long time ago:
For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure—a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.
Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.
In the past four days alone, Oxford’s classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.
This is stunning—it will rewrite the history of classical and post-classical literature and provide work for generations of scholars. My own excitement was roused especially by word of “a large and particularly significant paragraph of text from the Elegies, by Archilochos, a Greek poet of the 7th century BC.” Archilochus (or Arkhilokhos, if you want to be Hellenic about it) has always been one of my favorite poets, and I still remember the thrill of the discovery thirty years ago of another substantial fragment; as soon as I got hold of a text (it took longer in those pre-internet days) I stayed up most of the night working on a translation. I can’t wait to see this one, not to mention all the other newly found masterpieces, once known by heart to every person of culture but long since forgotten. And I’m also looking forward to the “lesser work—the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day.” (Via Mithridates.)