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EURIPIDES, Phoenissae, in Greek uncial, manuscript on papyrus [Egypt, late 1st century B.C.]
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EURIPIDES, Phoenissae, in Greek uncial, manuscript on papyrus [Egypt, late 1st century B.C.]

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EURIPIDES, Phoenissae, in Greek uncial, manuscript on papyrus [Egypt, late 1st century B.C.]

A unique and early witness to the dramatic literary prowess of one of the greatest of the Classical tragic dramatists, Euripides.

66 x 30mm. Three small fragments of papyrus roll pieced together to form a portion of a column containing 8 lines of text written in a round Greek uncial. Between sheets of glass and in a fitted rose cloth box.

Provenance:
(1) H.P. Kraus, 1988.

(2) Schøyen Collection, MS 181.


Text:
With Aeschylus and Sophocles, Euripides (c.484-406 B.C.) was the last of Classical Athens’s great tragic dramatists. The beauty of Euripides’ tragedies lies in its powerful psychological realism, with intensely flawed characters bringing about their own sensational and melodramatic downfalls through their unfettered and uncontrolled passions. The insights into human melodrama in Euripides are found not through reconciliation or moral resolution, but by an emphasis on chaos, meaningless suffering and human irrationality. The ancients knew of 92 plays composed by him, but only nineteen are extant (if one of disputed authorship is included).

Phoenissae (Phoenician Women) displays some of Euripides’ finest narrative technique. It dramatises the most fertile mythical tradition of the city of Thebes and its doomed royal family, focusing on the mutual slaughter of the two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices. The text of the present fragment, as below (visible words in bold), follows lines 182-90 in the critical edition, an electrifying speech by Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta:

[Νέμεσι καὶ Διὸς] βαρύβρ[ομοι βρονταί,
κεραυνῶν τε φῶς] αἰθαλόε[ν, σύ τοι
μεγαλαγορίαν] ὑπεράν[ορα κοιμίζεις:
ὅδ᾽ ἐστίν, αἰχμαλώτ]ιδας ὃ
δορὶ Θηβαίας Μυκηνηΐσιν
Λερναίᾳ] τε δώ[σειν τριαίνᾳ,
Ποσειδανίοις Ἀμυμ]ωνίοις [
ὕδασι δουλείαν περ]ιβαλών [—
μήποτε μήποτε] τάνδε [ὦ πότνια]


Script:
The script is datable to the first century B.C. or first century A.D. The alpha and the delta are sharply angular and short leftward pointing serifs are visible on the 'rho', 'tau', and 'nu': the hand may be compared with those of P. Oxy. XLVII 3322 (Euripides, Phoenissae 3-14 and 46-61, dating from the first century); P. Oxy. XLVII 3324 (Meleager, Epigrams, dating from the first century B.C. or A.D.); and P. Oxy. LXXIX 5195 (Sophocles, Oedipus Coloneus 189-201, 204-11, 243-7, also dating from the first century B.C. or A.D.). The hand is remarkably similar to that of P. Co. Inv. 517b (see L. Feinberg, ‘Four New Homeric Papyri at Columbia’, Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, 8 [1971] 31).


Bibliography:
L. Feinberg, ‘A Fragment of Euripides’ Phoenissae’, Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, XII/2, (1975).

B. E. Donovan, Euripides Papyri, New Haven and Toronto, 1969.
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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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