cod. 1004636

Academic year 2019/20
2° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Papirologia (L-ANT/05)
Filologia, linguistica e letteratura
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

Aim of the course is to provide basic notions about Papyrology with reference to bibliographical tools and to methods and perspectives of study of the papyri as original artefacts and as sources for historical and literary studies, through the exemplary case of ancient medical science in its cultural, historical, documental and literary components. The course leads the students to material and palaeographical analysis of the written product, and to the contextualization and critical fruition of the preserved text (either document or literary text), allowing for the acquisition of competences in the comprehension and use of the historical-documentary and philological-literary sources in context.

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

(a – knowledge and understanding) know and understand the role of Papyrology in the ancient studies, especially its peculiar contribution to the studies of Graeco-Roman history and literature;

(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 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 methodologies, skills and sets of knowledge useful for the learning of Classics disciplines.


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Course unit content

Course title: Contribution of the papyri to the knowledge of ancient medicine.

The course offers an overview of the scientific documentation of ancient medicine through the testimony of the Greek papyri from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, with a particular focus on the materiality of the findings, on the writing practices, on the textual (documentary and literary) typologies, as well as on the historical contextualization in the evolution of the medical culture in the classical and late Antiquity. A selection of significant texts will be presented and commented in translation.

Full programme

1. Introduction: ancient medicine between magic and rationality
2. Medical writings: forms and functions
3. From fluid transmission to written publishing: the Corpus Hippocraticum and the Corpus Galenicum in the papyri
4. Medicine in questions and answers: the catechisms
5. The graphic-expressive jargon in the medical prescription on papyrus
6. Medical contexts in the documentary papyri
7. Signs of illness in the papyrus letters
8. From mummification to internal medicine
9. Botanics and herbals
10. Poisons and antidotes
11. Units of measurement between "knowledge" and "know-how"
12. “The healing hand”: surgery in the papyri
13. Ophthalmology in the papyri
14. Gynaecology in the papyri, from Hippocrates to Soranus
15. Late-antique medical compilations


Manual: N. Reggiani, Papirologia: la cultura scrittoria dell’Egitto greco-romano, Parma: Athenaeum 2018.

Reference bibliography:

I. Andorlini - A. Marcone, Medicina, medico e società nel mondo antico, Firenze: Le Monnier 2004.

I. Andorlini, Scritti sui papiri e la medicina antica, a cura di N. Reggiani, Firenze: Le Monnier 2018.

F. Steger, Asclepio: medicina e culto, Parma: Athenaeum 2019.

A. Bovo (a cura di), La trasmissione del sapere medico dai papiri a oggi, Parma: Athenaeum 2019.

N.B. The students who are not able to attend the classes are required to study the manual and two readings of their own choice among the indicated bibliography.

Teaching methods

Frontal classes with PowerPoint slides. Guided practice exercises of transcription and interpretation of texts on papyrus. 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 the reference manual. For the students who cannot attend the classes, the examination will focus on the manual and the additional readings as indicated in the bibliographical section above.

The examination will comprise one question about the manual (evaluated from 1 to 10 points), one about the topics presented in the classes (from 1 to 10 points), one about a topic to be selected by the student either from the manual or from the class topics. 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 efficaciously 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.