Study sheds light on ‘modern concerns’ of the ancient world

Saturday, October 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new study has shed light on an ancient world with surprisingly modern concerns: including hoped-for medical cures, religious confusion and the need for financial safeguards.

The University of Cincinnati-based journal “Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists,” devoted to research on papyri is due out Nov. 1.

The annually produced journal, edited since 2006 by Peter van Minnen, UC associate professor of classics, features the most prestigious global research on papyri, a field of study known as papyrology.

Papyrology is formally known as the study of texts on papyrus and other materials, mainly from ancient Egypt and mainly from the period of Greek and Roman rule.

The research was common among antiquities dealers of the early 20th century to tear papyri pages apart in order to increase the number of pieces they could sell.

Below are five topics treated in the upcoming 2010 volume of the “Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.”

The five issues resonate with our own concerns today.OU cabbage

Katherine Blouin from the University of Toronto publishes on a papyrus text regarding a Greek loan of money with interest in kind, the interest being paid in cabbages. Such in-kind interest protected the lender from currency inflation, which was rampant after 275 AD - and no doubt also provided a convenient way to get groceries.ippo strapped for cash

Cavan Concannon from Harvard University edits a Greek letter in which a priest of the hippopotamus goddess, Thoeris, asks for a money transfer he is waiting for. Such money transfers were for large amounts and required mutual cooperation between two banks in different places that had sufficient trust between them to accept one another’s “checks.”

“American Gladiators” ca. 300 AD

Sofie Remijsen of Leuven University in Belgium discusses a Greek letter in which the author details his visit to Alexandria in Egypt, at a time (ca. 300 AD) when the Roman Emperor Diocletian was also visiting the city - and demanding entertainment.

Alternative medicine: Don’t try this at home

Magali de Haro Sanchez from Liege University in Belgium discusses magical texts from Greco-Roman Egypt that use technical terms for fevers (over 20), wounds, including scorpion bites and epilepsy. The “prescriptions” (magical spells) were as difficult-to-decipher as any written in modern medical scrawl.

Spelling counts: Orthodoxy and orthography in early Christianity

An essay by William Shandruk from the University of Chicago examines the ways in which Christ and Christian are spelled in Greek papyri. Chrestos, which was pronounced the same way as Christos, was a common slave name meaning “good” or “useful.” (ANI)

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