Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.07.04

F. A. J. Hoogendijk, B. P. Muhs (ed.), Sixty-Five Papyrological Texts: Presented to Klaas A. Worp on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday. Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava 33.   Leiden/Boston:  Brill, 2008.  Pp. xl, 416.  ISBN 9789004166882.  $216.00.  

Reviewed by Daniela Colomo, University of Oxford (

Table of Contents

This volume contains sixty-five texts, almost all representing the editio princeps of hitherto unpublished papyri, offered to the leading papyrologist Klaas Antony Worp to celebrate his 65th birthday.1 As the Preface points out (p. v), the range of the contributions reflects not only the extremely wide spectrum of the interests of the honorandus, but also his willingness to collaborate with colleagues from all over the world in the genuine spirit of the amicitia papyrologorum. The variety of the texts included in the book is impressive, and they contribute relevant new information to literary, religious, and material culture as well as political, administrative, social and economic aspects of the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine world. We find Greek literary papyri (contributions nos. 1-4), Greek subliterary papyri (no. 9), a Coptic subliterary text (no. 5), a magic papyrus (no. 10), a large number of documents not only written in Greek (nos. 13-26, 28-61), but also in Latin (no. 11), Demotic (no. 12), Coptic (nos. 62-64), Arabic (no. 65), and even a bilingual text in Greek and Latin (no. 27). The chronological range stretches from the third century BC to the eleventh century AD, although the majority of the texts come from the first centuries of the common era and from late antiquity. Accordingly, a variety of writing material is also represented, from papyrus to parchment, from wooden tablets to ostraka.

Within the section of literary texts, no. 1 offers a new witness of [Plato], Ep. viii, from the third century BC, which represents the most ancient papyrus of this Platonic work and the second papyrus hitherto known of Plato''s epistles (but from a textual standpoint it does not offer new readings). No. 2, a fragment of a papyrus roll from the beginning of the first century AD, increases the number of witnesses of Demosthenes, Or. xxi, while no. 3, a fragment from the second book of Apollonius Rhodius of the second/third century AD from Oxyrhynchus, represents an example of a well-known sort of cheap book production, based on the recycling of writing material: the text has been written on the back of a documentary text whose legal validity was expired. No. 4, a new witness of the first book of Herodotus from the second/third century AD, belongs to the same roll as P. Mich. inv. 6586b (already published by W. Luppe in ZPE 93 (1992) 170): thus it represents a typical feature of the history of the antiquities market, where fragments belonging to the same roll have often been divided into different collections in a sort of ''modern fragmentation''. No. 5 offers a fragment of a Coptic literary text from a tenth-century AD parchment codex, perhaps from the White Monastery in Akhmîm, the already known apocryphon Liber Bartholomaei. From a textual standpoint the text must be ascribed to the shortest recensio of this work, the so-called recensio D.

Among the so-called subliterary texts, nos. 6-8 -- three already published ostraka of the first/second century AD which have been re-edited in a single contribution aiming to contextualize them in their religious and cultural milieu -- consist of oracular questions addressed to Athena/Neith, and demanding justice against enemies. Their provenance -- the cemetery of sacred fishes in Esna, the ancient Latopolis in Upper Egypt -- documents further the well-known association between the goddesses and the fish called lates niloticus. No. 9 also concerns ancient religion: it is a small papyrus fragment of the second century AD containing a prose passage on the god Chnum, identified with the Greek deity Agathos Daimon. On the other hand , no. 10 deals with the sphere of Magic: it is a love charm with Schwindeschema of the third century AD. With no. 11 we change scenario to enter the field of Latin palaeography: it is the re-edition of a Latin papyrus of the first quarter of the fifth century AD, containing two types of Latin scripts written by the same competent hand, which in both cases writes the letters in the order of the Greek alphabet. The first series of letters represents the common Latin cursive, used from the third century AD onwards; the second represents an archaizing writing type used for documents of exceptional importance, like imperial constitutions, and for the dates of records of legal proceedings related to public administration. The purpose of the text was clearly to offer the model of two Latin scripts to Greek-speaking people - perhaps lawyers or officials - who had to or wanted to read and/or write in Latin.

The bulk of documentary papyri published in the volume illuminate many areas of ancient lives in Egypt in different periods of time. Economic organization and administration are well represented. No. 12, a wooden tablet of the first century BC from Pathyris, allows us to catch a glimpse of the economic life in a temple with a grain account in Demotic, while nos. 13-14, documents from the third century BC, illustrate the activity of a pawnbroker, listing some of his clients and a variety of pawned objects (from agricultural tools to dresses and pieces of jewellery). Besides we find: a report on the επίσκεψις of land (= inspection of cultivated land for fiscal purposes) from the first half of the second century AD (no. 19); a lease of a house with workshops from the second half of the second century AD, probably from Antinoopolis (no. 20); a letter on ostrakon of the second century AD from Karanis concerning the purchase and transport of a pig for a festival (no. 52); a contract for the lease of land for the cultivation of cereals and vines in the seventh century AD from Herakleopolis (no. 37); a contract of sale of a female slave with her own child, from the year 198/199 AD from Soknopaiu Nesos (no. 21); a letter dated 11 AD from the world of the mines, addressed probably by the Roman military overseer of a mine to an Egyptian worker, and concerning some tools (no. 16); a letter on ostrakon from the period of Domitian/Trajan from a quarry close to Mons Porphyrites dealing with certain implements (no. 50); a business letter of the third/fourth century AD from Hermupolis, concerning delivery of textiles (no. 24). Legal and social issues related to marriage and remarriage can be explored in no. 18, an agreement on the cession of a dowry to the family of the wife''s husband from Tebtynis in the first half of the second century AD. The case is particularly complicated because of the premature death of the first husband of the woman involved, the postponement of the actual cession of the dowry, the delay of the cash payment agreed in exchange for the dowry, and the almost immediate re-marriage of the widow to her own elderly paternal uncle, who became her guardian, and therefore involved in the legal transactions. No. 26, a fragment of the fourth/fifth century AD, probably from Oxyrhynchus, concerns political organization at council level, and deals specifically with a long-debated terminological question: whether the nouns πολιτευόμενοι and βουλευταί can be considered synonyms to designate members of the city council. The available evidence leads to the conclusion that the first term indicated a higher status. No. 27, a bilingual report of proceedings of the year 433 AD, possibly concerning financial disputes and preserving the speech of an advocate, although fragmentary, increases the evidence for the use of Latin for the framework of reports of proceedings, especially after Diocletian, seemingly to demonstrate the Romanitas of the authorities chairing the trials.2 Interestingly, no. 51, a very curious ostrakon of the second century AD from the Roman fort Dios contributes to the reconstruction of the everyday life of the military world: in the form of an official notification it reports on an incident involving a soldier, who delayed his mission to spend a night with a woman. The environment of the school is represented by one of the ostraka from the collection of Naphtali Lewis (ostraka edited in a single contribution as nos. 53-60), no. 53, a school exercise of the fourth century AD from Luxor containing a list of disyllabic words, which clearly comes from a Christian background. Finally, the very last text of the volume, an Arabic papyrus (no. 65), seems to show an ancient attempt to organize social security: it is a list of names and addresses of Arab residents of Fus7789;257;7789; in the seventh/eighth century AD, whose purpose could have been pension distribution among Muslim fighters. 789;257;7789; in the seventh/eighth century AD, whose purpose could have been pension distribution among Muslim fighters. 57;7789; in the seventh/eighth century AD, whose purpose could have been pension distribution among Muslim fighters. 789; in the seventh/eighth century AD, whose purpose could have been pension distribution among Muslim fighters.

Moreover, some pieces of information relevant to specific areas of papyrology are worth mentioning, in particular with regard to prosopography and ancient archives. No. 25 offers a document related to payment of corn of the fourth century AD belonging to the archive of Hyperechios, a landowner from Hermupolis (a useful survey of the documentation related to him and his family is offered in an appendix). Nos. 29-32, documents of the fifth and sixth century AD from Hermupolis, contribute new material to the dossiers, both of already known and hitherto unknown Notare. Nos. 33 and 34 concern a member of the military elite, Flavius Callinicus Iuvinianus, attested in already published documents from the second half of the fifth to the first half of the sixth century AD: his economic activity is now illustrated by a lease of a third of an oil press (no. 33). Nos. 41 and 43, ostrakon receipts for survey-tax on date-land and for poll-tax respectively from Elephantina, document the activity of an already known tax-collector of the first half of the second century AD called Palachemis. Nos. 61 and 62, grouped in a single contribution as ostrakon receipts of the seventh/eighth and the eighth century AD respectively, contribute to the dossier of the already known ironworker Partemouthios, and to the dossier of the well-known tax collector Markos (no. 62 is written in Coptic). Besides, no. 35, lease of land of the year 596 AD from Heracleopolis, provides evidence for the involvement in economic activities of secular confraternities of Coptic Egypt, the so-called πηιλοπονία.

With regard to the production of the volume, one may note some inconsistencies concerning the editing criteria: among the literary texts, some editions (nos. 3 and 4) present a diplomatic transcript and an articulated text, while others only an articulated text (nos. 1 and 2, of which the first presents only division of words, while 2 and 9 are fully equipped with reading marks and punctuation; note that no. 9 is a new literary text and therefore a diplomatic transcript preceding the restored and reconstructed text would have been appropriate). Among the documentary papyri, nos. 7 and 8 present a transcription in upper case Greek characters. The documentary papyri are equipped with translations, but this is not the case for no. 26. Besides, in the description of the book-hand of no. 15 the statement at p. 95 ''les mots ne sont pas séparés les uns des autres'', i.e. the text is written in scriptio continua, sounds somehow puzzling: it seems to imply that the papyrus represents an exception, while the absence of systematic separation between words is the normal way in which papyri are written! In general the volume has carefully been proofread.3 However, it should be pointed out that the very poor quality of the majority of the black and white and often reduced pictures of the papyri does not allow an effective checking of uncertain readings. This is very regrettable taking into consideration on the one hand the high cost of the volume, on the other the fact that current technology would have easily allowed the inclusion of a couple of DVDs with high quality colour digital images to accompany the volume.

To conclude, on the whole the volume presents numerous interesting new texts in reliable editions which may appeal to a broad range of scholars. I would like to point out that since its publication the book has stimulated papyrological research: for example, A. Papathomas4 has convincingly proposed new readings for no. 24, and accordingly explored rhetorical and literary features of the text by detecting Sophoclean echoes; in addition, C. Carusi 5 has contributed to a better understanding of no. 57, a memorandum on ostrakon of the fourth century AD, where she has deciphered two hitherto unnoticed abbreviations.6


1.   Each papyrus of the volume is indicated with the sigla P. Worp followed by the respective number in the Checklist of Edition of Greek, Latin, Demotic, and Coptic Papyri, Ostraka and Tablets. Note that nos. 6-8, and 11 offer a re-edition of already published texts; on the other hand , no. 35 offers a complete edition of a papyrus previously edited only partially by adding a fragment recovered after the editio princeps.
2.   On the complex issue of bilingualism in reports of proceedings see J. N. Adams, Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge 2003) 383-390.
3.   There are, however, a few typos and lapses: on p. 96, fragment c, line 4 the acute accent of the last word is wrongly on the first iota and should be on the second; on p. 106, last line of the page, read ''dittografia'' instead of ''dittogragia''; on p. 118, in the commentary on fragment b, first line read ''il y a'' instead of ''il l y a''; on p. 173, the third line of the main text (after the section in smaller type), read ''sbizzarrita'' instead of ''sbizzarita''; on p. 178, in the commentary on 9-10, between the second and the third line, read ''imbarcazione'' instead of ''imbaracazione''.
4.   ''Bemerkungen zum Geschäftsbrief P.Worp 24,'' ZPE 168 (2009) 259-264.
5.   ''Nota a P.Worp 57,'' ZPE 168 (2009) 219-211.
6.   I also recommend the detailed review by P. van Minnen in BASP 46 (2009) 199-207.

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