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