Guglielmo Cavallo and Herwig Maehler, Hellenistic Bookhands (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008). xvii + 153 pp. 96 Plates. $168.
I would like to express my utmost appreciation to the kind folks at Walter de Gruyter for sending me a review copy of this book.
The standard English-language handbooks on Greek palaeography, namely, those of C.H Roberts and E.G. Turner, were matched in 1987 when the authors of the book reviewed here published what is likely the most referenced handbook on Greek palaeography in current scholarship--Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period A.D. 300–800 (BICS Supplement 47; London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies). Published in 2008, Hellenistic Bookhands attempts to chart the development and typology of Greek bookhands in the Hellenistic age, a subject which, as the authors note in the preface, “has never been explored in a monograph” (v). The authors note that, with respect to the book’s title, the term “Hellenistic” was preferred over the usually employed “Ptolemaic” on account of the fact that certain features in the handwriting of Ptolemaic papyri continue for some decades into the Augustan period. But, more importantly, since Greek papyri have been found in places outside of Egypt (e.g., Derveni, Macedonia, Palestine, Herculaneum), the geographically restricted “Ptolemaic” is something of a misnomer.
As for the layout and presentation of materials, one will notice that it is similar to that of the author’s 1987 handbook, both of which show many similarities in format with Turner’s Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (GMAW), in which there is an introduction detailing a variety of issues pertaining to the development of Greek handwriting and manuscript particularities (i.e., reading aids, critical signs, layout), followed by a selection of papyri accompanied by plates, transcriptions and detailed discussions. It should be noted here that Turner’s GMAW achieved more in terms of comprehensiveness, which is evidenced in the fuller descriptions given of individual papyri over against those presented in Cavallo and Maehler’s handbooks. The 96 papyri are arranged chronologically in Hellenistic Bookhands, beginning with the famous Derveni papyrus of the 4th century BCE and ending with a 1st century CE declaration of sheep from Oxyrhynchus. According to the preface, the selection of texts was made jointly, but the definition of groups of stylistically related hands, along with the commentaries at the end of each group, was prepared solely by Cavallo (v).
The Introduction, which is written in a marvelously lucid style, is 24 pages long and contains 12 figures. The subsections treat various issues such as the oldest surviving Greek books, book production and literary scripts, the emergence of Greek cursive (in which there is a detailed discussion of the types of script in the Zenon archive), features common to literary and documentary scripts, aids to the reader, etc. Cavallo and Maehler pose several interesting questions relating to historical phenomena regarding handwriting styles. For one, they question whether the script of the 6th and 5th centuries was the only Greek script that existed at that time, in light of the fact that our extant evidence shows a remarkably fixed graphic ideal; the editors refer to this style of script as a “kind of graphic κοινή, of standard Greek script which did not change or evolve much during this period” (4).
There is also an interesting question as to why archaic or “epigraphical” features dropped out of use beginning in the 3rd century and almost altogether disappeared by the 2nd. According to the authors, the reasons are two. First, Rosalind Thomas demonstrates that orality played a higher role in Athens prior to the fourth century BCE, and that before this time “evidence did not have to be presented in court in writing until the fourth century” (Thomas, quoted on page 5). Given that there was a reluctance to take to writing when it came to everyday affairs, the style of handwriting in the 6th-4th centuries remained static. Second, the foundation of the royal library in Alexandria in the 4th century BCE generated an unprecedented interest in bookrolls, and the vast amount of copying forced scribes to develop styles of handwriting that would allow for much more speed in the copying process. Thus, the development of cursive writing is emblematic of an increase in book production beginning in the 4th century BCE.
The “Texts and Plates” section is the meat of the book. Included in the first entry are details relating to the papyrus’ publication, dimensions, number of lines and columns, LDAB numbers (where available), and references to the publication of images. My main criticism of the palaeographical descriptions under each entry is that they are limited. Some of the discussions are a mere line or two (Nos. 12, 15, 21, 22, 53). As mentioned above, Turner’s GMAW is better in this regard. This limitation is, however, partly balanced out by Cavallo’s fuller discussion of the similar stylistic patterns at the end of each group. Most of the images are scaled down in size, but the exact percentage of their reduction is conveniently noted next to the plate itself. Some images represent the original size (=100%) (Nos. 22, 23, 25, 40, 45, 49, 55, 60, 79, 82, 92) and others are increased in size (=greater than 100%) (Nos. 1, 17, 28, 65, 72, 83, 84, 86, 91, 93, 94). In one instance (No. 39), the percentage of size is missing. In general, the plates themselves are very clear and letter-forms are easy to observe. Two small typographical errors were noted: “literay” is printed twice (page 16, last paragraph, and page 17, first paragraph).
I should like to note one correction, which is really more of an update than a correction of a mistake. On page 19 of the introduction, the authors state, “There is no evidence of ruling in papyri…” In support of this statement, the authors cite Turner, who likewise states, “Nor can I point to an example of vertical ruling” (GMAW2, 6; Cavallo and Maehler cite GMAW2, 4 n.7). However, I have recently identified vertical ruling line in the second column of P.Oxy. III 560 (Iliad; 3rd cent. CE), which was not mentioned in the ed. princ. by Grenfell and Hunt. The scribe of P.Oxy. III 560 has drawn a vertical line before copying his text in order to keep his left margin completely justified. Andrzej Mironczuk and myself have given this papyrus a full edition, which is published in ZPE 186 (2013), where an image of the papyrus and a fuller discussion of this vertical ruling line may be found. Thus, there is now evidence of vertical ruling.
This book and its editors are to be praised for the kinds of material they have provided historians, classicists, papyrologists, and others. Cavallo and Maehler have produced arguably the two most important handbooks on Greek palaeography. Hellenestic Bookhands together with Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period represent the essential guides for Greek handwriting from the 4th century BCE to the 9th century CE. For scholars working on texts posterior to the Ptolemaic period, Hellenistic Bookhands is still necessary for understanding the history and development of the graphic phenomena in Greek papyri. I warmly welcome this handbook and look forward to using it often. It will certainly become a “classic” in the field of papyrology.
To order this book from Walter de Gruyter, click here.
Along with the Derveni and Timotheos papyri, the document known as the "Curse of Artemisia" (P.Vindob. G 1) represents one of the oldest surviving papyri in Greek. It is dated to the 4th cent. BCE and is written in an "epigraphic" style typical of the period. It was found at Memphis and is now housed in the Papyrus Collection of the Austrian National Library, Vienna. The letters are a bit clumsy and imitate those of stone inscriptions (theta with middle dot, omega with flat "arcs," sigma as a wedge, an intermediate form between epigraphic and lunate forms). Kenyon states that the papyrus "is not the work of a professional scribe, but the writing of an uneducated woman who uses uncial letters because she can form no others [...] such letters were commonly before her eyes in public places, while she had probably seldom seen a book" (Palaeography of Greek Papyri, Oxford, 1899, 57). This non-literary papyrus demonstrates that there was very little difference between literary and non-literary scripts in the 4th century BCE. A translation of this interesting papyrus may be found here.
The World Digital Library has a page devoted to the Curse of Artemisia, which includes a nice introduction and description. More important, there are images there of the best quality. Click on the image and it will open up a screen which allows one to zoom in; the resolution is exceptional. The image can also be downloaded from the site as a PDF or PNG.
Update: See the nice post about the Curse of Artemisia at Judith Weingarten's blog, Zenobia.
In the middle of the 20th century, the leading German textual critic Kurt Aland succeeded Ernst von Dobschütz as keeper of the authoritative list of manuscripts, whose first report appeared in 1950 (ThLZ 75). Aland was efficient in keeping the list up to date, publishing numerous supplements in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. What is immediately evident from these articles is that Kurt Aland did not continue registering amulets or ostraka, as his predecessor von Dobschütz had done. Thus, Aland’s omission of these materials marks the turning point in the classification of non-continuous manuscripts. In fact, the previously registered amulets and ostraka were suddenly and without explanation removed from the list by Aland and they were never to appear again; my attempts to find a reason early on in the literature for their removal from the list have been unsuccessful. In Aland’s Kurzgefaßte Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments—the first edition appearing in 1963 and the second in 1994—Gregory’s 0152 and 0153 are bracketed, indicating that they are to be removed from the authoritative list of manuscripts. Moreover, in the second edition, Aland states explicitly in the footnotes to 0152 and 0153 that these categories were not continued: “[D]ie Liste der Talismane (fortgeführt bis T9…) wurde nicht fortgesetzt…[D]ie Liste der Ostraka, geführt von O1-25…) wurde nicht fortgesetzt” (Kurzgefasste Liste, 33 nn. 2-3). Likewise, in Kurt and Barbara Aland’s handbook on New Testament textual criticism, in which a version of the Liste appears, 0152 and 0153 are listed as follows (Text of the New Testament, 123):
0152 = Talisman. (Delete from list)
0153 = Ostracon. (Delete from list)
In that same book, Aland and Aland list multiple registered papyri that they claim should be removed from the Liste, since they are non-continuous:
"Among the ninety-six items which now comprise the official list of New Testament papyri there are several which by a strict definition do not belong there, such as talismans (P50, P78), lectionaries (P2, P3, P44), various selections (P43, P62), songs (P42), texts with commentary (P55, P59, P60, P63, P80), and even writing exercises (P10) and occasional notes (P12). The presence of lectionaries may be explained as due to a structural flaw in the overall system, the inclusion of commented texts to the lack of an adequate definition for this genre (probably akin to the popular religious tracts of today which feature selected scripture verses with oracular notes), and the other examples are due to the occasionally uncritical attitude of earlier editors of the list (85)."
It is clear, therefore, that when Aland took over the Liste the non-continuous text materials that von Dobschütz had registered were removed and his categories “Talismans” and “Ostraka” were altogether discontinued. But, surprisingly, no explanation for the removal of these materials was ever given. Kurt Aland’s wife, Barbara Aland, succeeded him as director of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster (where the Liste is maintained), and she served in this position until 2004, at which time Holger Strutwolf took over as director. From the time of Kurt Aland’s initial appointment as keeper of the Liste until the present time, the non-continuous New Testament textual materials have had no place within text-critical research. As a general rule—a rule that is strictly enforced by the Institute in Münster—non-continuous text manuscripts are prohibited from being registered in the official Liste. It is not clear when this rule was actually formalized, but it was apparently established during the tenure of Kurt Aland.
This rule has commanded almost absolute allegiance within the discipline of New Testament textual criticism, yet it is interesting that no full discussion of it was ever provided by Aland. The immediate effect of the decision to restrict non-continuous materials was that when new non-continuous manuscripts of the New Testament were discovered, there was no way to classify them; as a result, most of these materials quietly faded into obscurity. Joseph van Haelst’s Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens and Kurt Aland’s Repertorium der griechischen christlichen—both published in 1976—improved the situation in some measure in that both catalogues listed some non-continuous texts (of particular importance is van Haelst’s section on amulets). The main problem is that neither of these catalogues is comprehensive, and, furthermore, Aland’s catalogue covers only those texts written on papyrus. But no real discussion of the potential value of non-continuous manuscripts would appear until the turn of the century.
The transmission of the text of the Greek New Testament represents a historical process that is highly complex, and when bits of the textual tradition become utilized for various purposes within the life of the church and its constituents, sometimes that tradition is reshaped. There are, of course, examples of non-continuous witnesses that yield no support for the wider tradition and are less relevant for the business of textual criticism. But for these manuscripts, which “form the dangling ends of branches that go no further” (Head 2013, 430), the story only just begins. These texts extend the evidence of Christian literature and yield historical information that provide the historian with a better glimpse into the everyday lives of Christians within Late Antiquity. For the most part, textual critics have stopped just shy of pursuing these historical phenomena, which is in part the result of the restrictions that are imposed onto the discipline. It is now time for these materials to be considered once and for all.
Floor Mosaic Depicting Dionysos' Discovery of Ariadne
The Ancient World Online Blog recently drew our attention to the MIHO Museum in Shiga, Japan, which houses a small collection of artifacts from antiquity. One particularly interesting artifact is a 3rd – 4th century CE floor mosaic of Dionysos's first encounter with Ariadne. In the central panel of the mosaic, a bloody wound has been drawn onto the rib cage of Dionysos, and some type of chalice or small plate is in his right hand. An image of this panel can be found above (click to enlarge). According to the description on the MIHO Museum's website, the bloody wound and chalice or plate are Christian symbols of Jesus' side-wound on the cross (from John's Gospel) and the Eucharist, respectively. This is the first time I have heard about the "Christianization" of Dionysos, if that is indeed what is going on here. I am wondering if anyone else might know if this phenomenon can be found elsewhere. The parallels between Dionysos and Jesus would of course explain why some Christians would forge a connection between the two persons. Bultmann is famous for claiming that the author of the story of Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine (John 2) was taken over from the Dionysos legend and ascribed to Jesus. I am not a specialist of Christian iconography and art so I do not know the extent of this phenomenon of transforming Dionysos into Jesus. I would be grateful if readers could point me to other examples.