Putting it All Together

Papyrologists spend a lot of time poring over individual letters trying to reconstruct the text. Even a seemingly insignificant trace of ink can be essential for distinguishing a letter which has been otherwise lost. However, after many long days, even months, of studying the text at close range, the papyrologist must step back to study the text as a whole.

In the previous section, you studied lines 24-33 of the fragment, trying to identify individual letters and words. Below is the full text of these lines (Medea verses 683-693) in Latin and also in English. The portions of the text corresponding to the fragments are in bold. This passage describes Medea performing a magic ritual which summons supernatural evils to her.


Taurus cohercet frigore Arctoo rigens,
et omne monstrum. tracta magicis cantibus
squamifera latebris turba desertis adest.
hic saeva serpens corpus immensum trahit
trifidamque linguam exertat et quaerit quibus
mortifera veniat; carmine audito stupet
tumidumque nodis corpus aggestis plicat
cogitque in orbes. "parva sunt" inquit "mala
et vile telum est, ima quod tellus creat;
caelo petam venena. iam iam tempus est
aliquid movere fraude vulgari altius."


.. that the Taurus, paralyzed by Arctic cold, locks in perpetual snow,
and all manner of horrors. Drawn by her magic chants,
a scaly horde comes from its abandoned lairs.
Here a vicious serpent drags its huge body,
darts out its three-forked tongue, and looks for those to whom
it may come dealing death: hearing her song it is stunned
and folds its swollen body into drawn-up knots,
and forces it into coils. "Small are the evils" she says,
"and commonplace the weapons that the lowest earth produces:
I shall seek poisions from heaven. Now, now it is time
to set in motion something more lofty than ordinary wrongdoing."

(Translation after H.M. Hine)


Continue on for some more thoughts about this papyrus, and to finish the project.

Next: Questions

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