Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homeric Papyri

(above: Ὣς οἵ γ᾽ ἀμφίεπον τάφον Ἕκτορος ἱπποδάμοιο, “Such was their burial of Hector, breaker of horses.” Iliad 24.804, from the Bankes Papyrus)

Four Furman undergraduates have begun their summer’s work as Editors for Homeric Papyri, a project of the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University. David Creasy, Kylie Elliott, Talley Latimore, and Brett Stonecipher have begun preparing a new edition of the Bankes Papyrus (B.M. Papyrus cxiv). This document, a seven-foot-long fragment from the 2nd Century C.E., contains the majority of Book 24 of the Iliad.

A description of this document in an article by E. Maunde Thompson in the 1887 issue of The Classical Review (vol. 2, p. 39) describes it thus:
This papyrus is in one piece, measuring upwards of seven feet, and containing sixteen columns of writing. It was bought by Mr. W. J. Bankes at Elephantine, in 1821, and passed into possession of the British Museum in 1879. The text is book xxiv of the Iliad, wanting the first 126 lines; well known by the collation published by George Cornewall Lewis in the Cambridge Philological Museum, in 1832. This is one of the few surviving MSS. which contain stichometrical notes, every hundred lines being numbered in the margin. From its first discovery the Bankes Homer has taken high rank as a most ancient MS., and has been quoted with veneration in palaeographical and other works. In the Museum Catalogue, however, it is assigned to the second century of our era. This later date will probably prove in the end to be much nearer the mark than the more remote century before Christ in which it has been placed. The writing is round uncials and miuch more nearly resembles the book-hand of the early Biblical Codices of the fourth and fifth centuries than the writing of the Ptolemaic period.
This papyrus figures largely in the chapter by Gregory Nagy, in C. Dué’s edited volume on the Venetus A: Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad. Center for Hellenic Studies, 2009 (link to PDF).

These students will produce two XML editions of this text. The first will present the Greek “normalized”, with conventional diacritical marks. The second will be a “diplomatic edition”, preserving only those diacritical marks that appear on the papyrus. These marks are unique among early witnesses to the contents of the Iliad, providing clues to how ancient readers experienced and understood the text.

These XML editions will be available through the project’s Canonical Text Service.

Brett, Talley, Kylie, and David will be joined in June by other collaborators, who will work on texts and images of Homeric and Biblical manuscripts.