Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Helmets Are Shaking Their Purple-Dyed Crests

A Sophocles play is being given free rein for the first time in centuries...or at least some lines from it are. The same new infrared techniques that are being used to read the scrolls from Herculaneum's House of the Papyri are now being used on the illegible bits of the Oxyrhyncus Papyri, a bunch of papyrus fragments found in ancient Egyptian rubbish dumps many years ago. My headline is from the results.

(I do like that line. Very horsey.)

But scholars are particularly excited to have gotten a bunch of new lines from Archilochos, a soldier poet revered by many ancients as Homer's equal. He seems to have a lot of down-to-earth wisdom and sense, he was supposed to be the satirist, and he invented iambic verse, according to the Greeks. Here's Guy Davenport's translation of one fragment found previously, inside a mummy.

The most concise account of the Oxyrhyncus Papyri is at Wikipedia. At least until some nutball 'revises' it.

The official site I linked to above contains some interesting articles and pictures on the thousands of papyri that were previously legible, including information on:

616: The Other Number of the Beast

Oxyrhyncus' destruction by Muslim Arab invaders, perhaps because the city was a major regional center of Christianity and religious life. Later Muslim sources celebrated the city as the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived during their brief residency in Egypt.

A list of documents used in daily life.

A circus program, or draft thereof.

An illustrated scroll about Heracles

A private letter about a one-eyed astrologer. Boy, I hope this is just code or slang, because otherwise the letterwriter died a very nasty death.

An ancient horoscope.

A house map.

An order to arrest a Christian.

Verse with musical notation.

Pretty cool, eh? There's a lot more on this site. Check it out.


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