36 THE GREEK PAPYRI.
 
Home
Title page
Contents
Search

 

text. The page was 8½ inches in length, with a margin at the top 1 inch wide and at the bottom 1½ inches wide. The space between the columns averages 3/8 of an inch. Each column contains 37 lines of text written in capitals. The dialogue is distinguished by horizontal lines drawn over the first letter or two of the line which introduces a new speaker. Unfortunately the fragments are in a bad condition. The majority of the lines are imperfect partly through injury to the papyrus, partly through the obliteration of the letters by the plaster with which they have been smeared.

The first fragment seems to contain a dialogue between Dirkê and Lykos, in which reference is made to the exposure and supposed death of the two sons of Antiopê, Zêthos and Amphiôn. This is followed by a dialogue between the sons and their mother which leads on to the death of Dirkê. In the next fragment the chorus is introduced, and Lykos then appears upon the scene, exclaiming: "Ah me! I am to die, unaided, at the hands of two." To this Zêthos replies; "But do you not lament your wife who is now among the dead ?" "How so ?" is the answer, "is she dead ? 'tis of a new evil that thou speakest" "Yes," says Zêthos, "she is dead, torn in pieces with thongs of bull-hide." "By whom ?" asks Lykos; "by you? for I must needs learn this." Lykos, however, is saved at the critical moment by the appearance of Hermês, who orders him to bury his wife, and after burning her bones on the funeral pyre to throw them into the " Spring of Arês," which henceforth should bear the name of Dirkê and flow through the city, watering the land and saving it from bane. Hermês then turns to the two brothers, who are to provide "the city of Kadmos" with seven gates "in order that it may be holy," while at the same time a lyre made from the shell of a tortoise is given to Amphiôn. Amphiôn is appointed King of Thebes in place of Lykos, he and his brother receiving "the highest honours in the city of Kadmos," and preparations are made for the marriage of Amphiôn with Niobê "the daughter of Tantalos," from among the "distant Phrygians," and to send for her at once,* and Lykos concludes the play with a sort of paternal blessing. He yields the throne to his two sons, telling them from henceforth to govern the land instead of himself, "taking the sceptres of Kadmos." He goes on to state that he will fling the ashes of his wife into the spring as had been ordered by Hermês, and concludes with the words, "I put an end to strife and to all that is past."

Among the lines preserved in the papyrus are two, belonging to a chorus, which have been quoted by Stobaios (Ed. i. 3,25, p.118), a writer who flourished in the fifth century A.D. The variations between the text as given by the papyrus and by Stobaios are very considerable, and confirm the inferences derived from the fragments of the Phaedo that the text of the Greek writers of the pre-Alexandrine period has come to us in a much modified condition. It is needless to insist upon the importance of this conclusion to the scholar.

Another fragment of a classical character is a page which contains two imperfect columns of writing and the ends of lines belonging to a third. It was found along with documents dated in the 39th year of Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.C. 247). The text is written in large capitals but in a schoolboy's' hand, and is probably the rhetorical exercise of a pupil to whom it was given to learn by heart. It is a passage in the form of a dialogue from some rhetorical or philosophical work, now lost, which describes the duty of being true to one's friends and draws an illustration from Akhillês, who "tho' deprived even of his armour ran the greatest risks and alone of any who have ever yet been born encountered death on behalf of his dead companion."

67. The classical fragments, however, form but a small part of the collection. This consists mainly of private letters, rough copies of wills, receipts and tax-gatherers' accounts. They throw a vivid light on the social history of the Greek inhabitants of Egypt at the time they were written, on the manners and customs of the Ptolemaic period, and the economical condition of the country. They bear out the conclusion recently arrived at by Prof. Mahaffy in his work on Greek Life and Thought from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, that the Greeks were much more widely scattered through Egypt in the age of the Ptolemies than has hitherto been supposed. They were to be found not only in the great centres of political life, Alexandria, Arsinoê Krokodilopolis, Ptolemais and Diospolis or Thebes, but also in the country, Mr. Petrie's papyri showing that the country villages of the Fayoum were full of them. They represented, in fact, not only the modern Greek traders, but also the Turks of more recent days, and constituted the main bulk of the higher official and landed classes. Greek soldiers occupied country-seats where the native peasants worked for them, and


* Hermês also declares that Amphiôn and Zethôs shall be "called the white twin-foals of Zeus"


home - previous page - next page