Oxyrhynchus Papyri Revisited

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

While away reworking the GLH space and getting lots of help from Jim Revellini, whom I really couldn’t get along without, I notice the reports on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri in the Independent. Regardless of the mismatch between content and headline, I come away from the article with more questions than answers. We’ve known the Oxyrhynchus Papyri for a long time now yet the contents for lots of reasons have been hard to detect, piece together, and authenticate. Even mentions by later authors, mentions say in Aristotle, are tough to assimilate.

I’d argue that the papyri are going to have to work pretty hard to change world history. The fact of the matter is, nevertheless, a vast amount of knowledge about the ancient world is lacking. How many Greek tragedies do we have, after all? Not that many. So what can we say about Greek tragedy beyond the few examples that we have compared to what we know about the last 30 years?

The OP will answer lots of questions when we have access to the materials: who was writing; what was being written; and what haven’t we known or inferred? What was missing? How do the expository and intro texts and analyses have to change?

I want to know how we figure that Lucian was writing a so-called novel beyond bits and references.


2 responses to “Oxyrhynchus Papyri Revisited”

  1. Christopher says:

    I’m waiting for them to find lost Gospels which throw a wrench in the existing Christian Dogma. Then again, isn’t that what the Apocrypha is all about?

  2. Steve says:

    I’d say, “Yes, sir.” This is what makes the study of anything fun: mysteries, things hidden and waiting to be uncovered, things in dispute.

    The very notion of hidden, denied, or questionable text opens the political and critical dialogue.