Thank you for completing the online survey! Below are some questions about the text you have just read.

Question 1

You have seen lines 24-33 (verses 684-692) in the larger context of the play. Having read this passage, think about the various scribal errors that exist in this small section:

line 24: The scribe wrote "tractat" for "tracta". How would this fit into the larger text? How would you translate the text with "tractat"? How might an error such as this be made?

line 26: The scribe wrote "in infernis" for "desertis". How does this fit in the text, and how would you translate the text with "in infernis"? This is not a simple phonological error, so how do you think it might have been introduced into the text?

line 28: The scribe wrote either "exterit" or "exerit" in place of "exertat". How does this affect the meaning of the passage? Scribes often spent long days copying line after line of text, either directly from another text or from someone who dictated the text by voice. Do you think mistakes like this one were relatively rare, or fairly common?

line 30: The scribe wrote "agrestis" for "aggestis". How does this change the meaning of the sentence? Does it still make sense?

line 32: The scribe wrote "quot" for "quod". Confusing the letters t and d was a common error among Latin scribes; can you think of any examples in English where the two sounds might get mixed up?

All of these errors exist in a span of only nine lines. Imagine how many errors must have existed in the whole text. After seeing this, do you think it is ever possible to reconstruct a classical text exactly as it left the pen of the original author? Do you think that inconsistencies like this were a concern to ancient Romans?

Question 2

This 4th century fragment survived after being "recycled" into a 10th century Coptic manuscript. What does this say about the durability of parchment? Many other texts which survive today survive only because they were similarly recycled or thrown away, such as texts which were reused in mummy cartonnage or thrown away in trash heaps. What implications might this have about the quality and type of texts which survive today? How accurate a picture of an ancient society can be obtained by studying texts like these?


In this exhibit you read lines 24-33 of the Seneca fragment. For more practice with this script, try reading lines 1-23 on the recto, or lines 33-45 on the verso. High-quality digital images of the fragments are available online via the APIS project: Recto | Verso

To create a diplomatic text, write down the letters you see, marking uncertain letters with underdots and lacunae with brackets. Once you have transcribed the text, check your answer against the publication of this text (ZPE 117, pp. 73-80), or simply check any publication of the Medea (remember that different texts may contain different readings).


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