cod. 1004636

Academic year 2018/19
2° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Papirologia (L-ANT/05)
Ambito aggregato per crediti di sede
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Integrated course unit module: Papyrology AND CLASSICAL PHILOLOGY

Learning objectives

Purpose of the course is the introduction to a deeper knowledge of Papyrology, of its methodology of research and critical study of the papyri as original artefacts and as sources for history and literature. A privileged focus will be the ‘global’ approach to the papyrus sources as ‘first-hand’ witnesses of the ancient writing, book, and communication phenomenologies and of a complex and multicultural historical-social context, as well as the socio-cultural meaning of the various text typologies attested.

At the end of the course, the student is expected to:

(a – knowledge and understanding) know, understand, and critically evaluate the role and the contribution of the papyrological sources to the ancient studies;

(b – applying knowledge and understanding) apply the general notions learned to individual cases of papyrus texts, and vice versa (contextualization); be able to read and utilize in a specialized way the critical editions of papyrus texts;

(c – making judgements) be able to utilize critically the documentation on papyrus as a basic source to ancient history and literature;

(d – communication skills) recognize and describe with the correct technical vocabulary the main typologies of papyrus texts and their content, formal, and context features;

(e – learning skills) develop specialized methodologies, skills and sets of knowledge useful for the learning of Classics disciplines.


If the student has never attended the BA course of Papyrology (“Papirologia LT”), it is profoundly recommended to read: N. Reggiani, La Papirologia: storia e cultura scrittoria dell’Egitto greco-romano, Parma: Athenaeum 2018.

Course unit content

Course title: Asterix and Caesar’s papyrus: communication, publishing culture, cognitive linguistics in the Antiquity through the testimony of the Greek papyri from Egypt.

The course aims at presenting and discussing the papyrological documentation as a sociological and cognitive source of the communication processes in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Moving from the recent comics publication Asterix and the missing scroll, strongly focused on the theme of “communication” and its forms, stemming from the heart of the latest events though inflected in the imaginary Antiquity acting as background of the story of the “lost scroll” of Caesar’s Commentarii de bello Gallico, it will be proposed a historical, social and cultural overview of written communication in the Hellenistic and Roman world through its papyrological sources. A selection of significant texts will be presented and commented in translation.

Full programme

Asterix and Cesar’s papyrus: introduction to the concept of written communication in the ancient world. The search for information. The historiographic censorship. Ancient publishing and libraries. Public communications: form and transmission of official reports and letters. Private communications: form and transmission of personal letters. Papyri as comic strips: communication and illustration. Crime news. Communicating in Demotic. The roll format. The codex format. From form to content: pagination and graphic layout. Kata to dunaton: translations and interpreters. Acta diurna: communicating in Latin. Hiding to communicate: cryptography.


Required reading: M.C. Scappaticcio, «Ils sont fous, ces Romains!»: Asterix, Le papyrus de César, e la trasmissione della conoscenza, “ClassicoContemporaneo” 3 (2017), 13-27.

Reference bibliography:

N. Reggiani, I papiri greci ed Erodoto: per un percorso diacronico e interculturale, Parma: Athenaeum 2018.

E.G. Turner, Papiri greci, ed. italiana a cura di M. Manfredi, Roma: Carocci 2002.

A.K. Bowman, L’Egitto dopo i Faraoni, Firenze: Giunti 1997.

H. Blanck, Il libro nel mondo antico, a cura di R. Otranto, Bari: Dedalo 2008.

M. Cursi, Le forme del libro. Dalla tavoletta cerata all'e-book, Bologna: Il Mulino 2016.

T. Dorandi, Nell’officina dei classici. Come lavoravano gli autori antichi, Roma: Carocci 2007.

N.B. The students who cannot attend the classes shall add three of the abovementioned reference texts to the required reading, at their own choice.

Teaching methods

Frontal classes with PowerPoint slides. Study materials provided in class and then available on line (platform Elly and the course’s website).

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination (interrogation). It will be verified the knowledge of the main features of the texts presented and commented in class (in Italian translation), of the historical-cultural contexts discussed during the course, and of two readings chosen by the student among the abovementioned reference bibliography. For the students who cannot attend the lessons, the examination will focus on three readings chosen as indicated above.

The examination will comprise two questions about the chosen readings (evaluated from 1 to 10 points each) and one about the topics presented in the classes (from 1 to 10 points). The final result, expressed in thirtieths, is made of the sum of the three partial results.

To be evaluated are: (a) the ability to understand and re-elaborate critically the specific issues of the discipline; (b) the ability to orient among the topics and the central themes of the discipline; (c) the ability to present and contextualize effectively the notions learned; (d) the correct formal exposition of the topics.

A fail is determined by the substantial lack of the abilities expressed by the evaluation indicators listed above; a pass (18-23/30) is determined by an acceptable level of the evaluation indicators listed above; middle-range scores (24-27/30) are assigned to the student who produces evidence of a more than sufficient level (24-25/30) or good level (26-27/30) in the evaluation indicators listed above; higher scores (from 28/30 to 30/30 cum laude) are awarded on the basis of the student’s demonstration of a very good or excellent level in the evaluation indicators listed above.

Other information

Beside the regular classes, optional seminar activities of transcription and edition of unpublished Greek papyri from Tebtunis will be organized. The papyri belong to the collection of the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley.