CLASSICAL GOLDMINE.

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.)

Comments

  1. It seems too fragmentary to be useful. If you look at the pictures in today’s Independent, you’ll see that barely half the page is there is most cases. So we’ll get lots of fragments of plays etc. I wonder if it’ll start a trend for authors to fill in the gaps.

  2. …or write fragmentary plays.

  3. Yeah, imagists and others wrote poems modeled on scraps of Archilochus, Sappho, et. al.
    So did I, come to think of it, when I was writing poems.

  4. The Egypt Exploration Society? Are we sure that Indiana Jones isn’t somehow involved in all of this? Here’s the Society’s website but on a quick look, I don’t see anything about this project:
    http://www.ees.ac.uk/home/home.htm

  5. There’s also a website about the project:
    http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/index.html
    I quickly browsed it, but I couldn’t find anything about the new discovery. There is a nice possibility though, to play around with papyri. Also, you can request a specific papyrus to be scanned first.

  6. Here for your delectation, is Papyrus LXIX 4708 containing the new fragment of Arkhilokhus in browsable format.

  7. Cool site! Also you can play at papyrology, assembling the Rosetta jigsaw puzzle.

  8. Wow — thanks, Jeremy!
    ] . . . .[
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ –⚒
    · · ·] · [· · · ·] · [ · ] . θεου κρατερη̂[ϲ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκηϲ
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ –
    . . . ] . . [ . ] . [ . . ] . . αι κακότηταλεγε̣ι[
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ – –⚒⚒ –×
    .[ ]ω[ ]π[. . . . . ] εθα . [1–2]α φυγει̂ν φευγ[
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ –
    5 . . . ο . [ . . ]ου .[ ]ο . . ω . [ ] Τήλεφοϲ ’Α̣ρκα̣[ϲίδηϲ
    ’Αργείων ἐφόβ̣ηϲε πολὺν ϲτρατ̣[όν.] ο̣[ἱ δὲ φέβοντο
    ά̣̓λκι̣μ̣[οι,] ἠ̣̂ τ̣όϲα δὴ μοι̂ρα θεω̂ν ἐφόβε̣ι̣,
    αἰχμητ̣α̣ί̣ περ̣ ἐόντε[ϲ·] ἐϋρρείτ̣ηϲ δὲ Κ[άικοϲ
    π]ι̣π̣τ̣ό̣ν̣των νεκύων ϲτείνετ̣ο καὶ [ὀχέων.
    10 μυρ̣ό̣μ̣ε̣ν̣οι̣ δ’ ἐπὶ θι̣̂ν̣α̣ πολυφλοί̣σβοι[ο θαλάϲϲηϲ,
    ϲφόδρ’] ὑ̣π’ ἀμειλίκτου φωτὸϲ ἐναιρό[μενοι,
    προ]τ̣ροπάδην ἀπ̣έ̣κλινον ἐϋκν̣ήμ̣[ιδεϲ ’Αχαιοί.
    ἀ]σ̣πάϲιοι δ’ ἐϲ νέαϲ̣ ὠ[κ]υ̣π̣όρ[ο]υ̣ϲ̣ [ἐϲέβαν
    π̣αι̂δέϲ τ̣’ ἀθανάτων κ̣α̣ὶ̣ ἀδελφεο̣ί̣, [οὓϲ ’Αγαμέμνων
    15 Ἴ̣λιον εἰϲ ἱερὴν ἠ̂γε μαχησομένο̣[υϲ·
    –⚒⚒ – ×
    οἱ̣ δὲ τότ̣ε̣ βλαφθέντεϲ ὁδου̂ παραθ[
    –⚒⚒ ×
    Τε]ύθραντοϲ̣ δ̣’ ἐ̣ρ̣ατὴν πρ̣ὸϲ πόλιν [ . ].[
    –⚒⚒ – ×
    ἔ]ν̣θ̣α̣ [μ]έ̣ν̣ο̣ϲ πνείοντ̣ε̣ϲ̣ ὁμωϲ αυτ̣ο̣[
    – ⚒⚒
    . ] . [ . . . . ]ηι μεγάλωϲ θυμὸν ἀκη . . [
    ⚒⚒ – ×
    20 τήν τ̣ε̣ γὰρ ὑψίπ̣υλον Τρώων πόλιν̣ ειϲ[
    –⚒⚒
    . . ] . . . γ̣η̣̂ν̣ δ’ ἐπάτευν Μυσίδα πυροφόρο̣[ν
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒
    . . . . .] . . . . . . . τη̂λ̣[ε] βοω̂ν̣ ταλ̣[α]κάρδιον [υἱὸν
    –⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ –
    . .]ρον . . [ . . ] . . . [ . . . . ] δηί̈ωι ἐν [πολ]έ̣μ̣[ωι
    Τ]ήλεφον ὅρ̣κ̣ο̣[ιϲ τ]οι̂ϲι κακὴν [ἐ]π[εμήϲατο μοι̂ραν
    – ⚒⚒ –⚒⚒ –
    25 . ] . ειδ̣ε[ . . . ] . . . ο . πατρὶ χαριζό̣μ̣[ενον
    . . . ] . . . . . . . . . [ . ] . . . . . [
    . . . ] . [ . ] . . . [ . . . . . . ] . . [
    . . . ] . . . . [ . . . . . . ] . θαν[
    . . . . .
    3 κακότητ’ ἀλέγει̣[ or κακότητα λέγει̣[
    4–5 π[ειρώμ]εθα δ̣[η̂ι]α φ̣υγει̂ν φευγ[όντεϲ ἐρίζειν] / α̣ὔ̣ρ̣ι̣ον
    5 ὡϲ̣ Τήλεφοϲ? or ’Α̣ρκὰ̣[ϲ ἐὼν? 9 or καὶ [πεδίον?
    25 or –νοϲ
    ‘. . . because of mighty necessity . . . wretchedness . . . having fled . . . fleeing . . . Arcadian-born Telephus routed the great army of Argives. The brave men fled–indeed, so greatly was the fate of the gods routing them–spear-men though they were. And fair-flowing Kaïkos was stuffed with corpses and chariots as they fell. Weeping, the well-greaved Achaeans turned-off with headlong speed to the shore of the much-resounding sea, since they were being massacred at the hands of the relentless man (Telephus). Gladly did the sons of the immortals and brothers, whom Agamemnon was leading to holy Ilium to wage war, arrive at their swift ships. On that occasion, because they had lost their way . . . toward the lovely city of Teuthras, where, despite their valorous ardour . . . in great distress of spirit. For to the high-gated city of Troy . . . but they had their feet on the wheat-bearing soil of Mysia . . . shouting from afar to his brave-hearted son . . . in fierce battle . . . for his oaths . . . he plotted an evil fate for Telephus . . . gratifying his father . . . death(less?) . . .’

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