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A: New Valley Governorate, Egypt

A "Wild" or "Eccentric" Papyrus of the Iliad Recovered from Cartonnage

Circa 275 BCE

Fragments of the Iliad, Books XXI-XXIII, dating from circa 275 BCE, and preserved at the Bodleian Library (MS. Gr. class. b.3 [P]) were recovered from cartonnage, the material made of waste papyrus used to make mummy cases in Egypt. In the Ptolemaic Period, from the reign of Ptolemy III, to the very beginning of the Roman Period, perhaps no later than the reign of Augustus, cartonnage elements and masks were produced from old papyrus rolls. Cartonnage of this type has proven to be a rich source of fragments of literary texts on papyrus. 

"Literary papyri of this early date are by no means common, and this one has the added interest of being one of the best examples of what are sometimes called 'wild' or 'eccentric' papyri of Homer. The text deviates substantially, e.g. by the omission or addition of whole lines, from the standard version later established by the Alexandrian scholars." 

"Bibl.: P. Grenf. II. 4 (bought from B. P. Grenfell in 1896) + P. Hibeh 22 (given by the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1909). Other fragments are in Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek (P. Heidelberg 1262-6) Pack 2 no. 979. For a full discussion see S. R. West, The Ptolemaic papyri of Homer (Papyriologica coloniensia, 3), Cologne 1967, 136-191" (Hunt, R.W., The Survival of Ancient Literature, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1975, No. 1.)

Papyri of Homer with unusual readings present authentic variations on the Homeric text, based on the variability characteristic of oral performance, during the period in which the texts were codified.


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