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Session 5 Fragments.doc

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Ben Akrigg

CLA260H1S Method and Theory in Classics Session 5: Fragments When classicists talk about ‘fragments’ they may, sometimes, mean literal, physical fragments of text preserved (usually on papyrus) in archaeological contexts (usually Egypt, although many were also preserved (carbonised) in Herculaneum). • The vast majority of surviving papyrus documents from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt are not literary texts but more mundane documents (which does not make them less interesting – if anything the reverse is true). • Most (about two-thirds) of the literary papyri from Egypt come from Oxyrhynchus. • Note in passing that most inscriptions (the subject of chapter 17 in the textbook) survive in a physically fragmentary state. th Consider the example of Menander (a comic poet of the later 4 century BCE), who wrote more than 100 plays; all of them were lost in the 7 & 8h th centuries CE. However, in other surviving works he was quoted over 900 times (often only a single line, but sometimes passages up to 16 lines long). Many papyri from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt have also been discovered which contain parts of Menander’s plays; one (Dyskolos) is virtually complete, and there are substantial fractions of half a dozen more, along with many more shorter fragments. Usually however when we talk about fragments we mean quotations of texts preserved in the works of later authors. An example, from Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistai (a text written at the end of nd the 2 century CE: this section (2.38e) is part of a conversation about wine): They compare Dionysus to a bull, because of the condition drunks are in, and to a leopard because those who consume too much wine are prone to violence. Alcaeus [writes]: “sometimes drawing themselves wine sweet as honey, at other times some with a bite harsher than brambles.” Some people become quarrelsome; th
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