Sunday, April 17

Lost & Found

If anyone had asked me, "Is Robert Silverberg read in the classics?", I would have guessed so.


Professor Kitto is likely harder to find in print now than in days gone by, so it's good students such as Silverberg are still with us. Online, Kitto's work survives in such quiet stacks as the "World's Largest Online Library!!!" affords. Possible term-paper mill "Questia" keeps tight rein on actual paragraphs of writing, but will happily search the holdings (including indices and statements of acknowledgement) by word or whatever. It's better than the typical garage of google-links. Maybe Project Gutenberg has more meat (thanks ibiblio), or wherever the local hungry grad students are hanging out.

I found Silverberg, of course, through serendipity. (Which led me to discover he's been busy using his classical education... but that's for another day).

What I was looking for was some Web account of a report I caught on the BBC World Service while doing the washing up. Seems there may be some new appendices (at least) for any respectable shelf of ancient writing. Maybe some new volumes even. A long-held trove of unique papyri, buried in the Egyptian desert for up to 2000 years, are being translated and catalogued feverishly after the application of new infrared imaging technology (MEGO) revealed their contents.

The surviving complete plays of Sophocles (some "180 or more [might be] ascribed to him") don't exactly comprise a doorstop. We have seven. That's not even enough to account for his first-place prizes.

Aeschylus, who nearly lost one of his 7 remaining complete plays, is barely a paperweight compared to, say Eugene O'Neill.

My sometime antagonist Euripides, the original expat, bested both his elders with 19. Personally, I think his known involvement in the Athenian anti-war movement gave him radical chic; Aeschylus was a proud foot-soldier and Sophocles an undistinguished officer.

Anyway, the researcher (IIRC) said there were something like half a million newly readable ancient texts, including recognizable pieces of known works & fragments at least of writers whose work never reached the monasteries. Since the site from which this treasure was recovered was a centuries-deep dump, we might even guess some of the papyri might have had the sort of things Mother Church wouldn't have wanted in circulation.

...Hey, the BBC story wasn't an hallucination! Days after I went looking for it, the Oxyrhynchos Papyri got a story from NPR (thanks, WUNC -- I know you're asking for money this month, but you'll have to settle for a link). Oddly, I was taking a break from drafting a post on the surprising tin ear of a story on Slate when I heard Slate's affiliated radio show "Day to Day" covering the papyri. I wonder how durable the "Day to Day" archive is...

I came here for the spelling of "Oxyrhynchos"; I stayed for the pretty pretty maps. A wealth of information can be found on the amusingly named "POxy" server, including an indexed database of what's been catalogued so far.


At 11:14 PM, Anonymous mim said...

I'm hoping for the latter two-thirds of the Prometheus trilogy of Aeschylus; some complete comedies of Menander, since he received such glowing notices from other ancient writers; some tragedies of Agathon, since Aristotle wrote about him in the Poetics; some histories of the Hellenistic era other than that of Polybius; some works of the pre-Socratic philosophers; and the theological treatises of Jovinian and Helvidius that St. Jerome wrote against, since I think they might strike a contemporary note.


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