cod. 23767

Academic year 2021/22
3° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Papirologia (L-ANT/05)
Attività formative affini o integrative
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 comparison between Egypt as attested to in the papyri and as described by Herodotus, 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: "The Greek papyri and Herodotus: a diachronic and cross-cultural journey".

The course aims at providing a different and innovative perspective on the Greek papyri as products and witnesses of the history, society, and culture of Hellenistic-Roman Egypt. Through the thematic comparison between the description of Egypt depicted by Herodotus in the V century BC and the picture emerging from the later papyrus records, it will be illustrated on one hand the long duration of historical-social and cultural phenomena in ancient Egypt, and on the other hand the value of the papyri as sources for a global knowledge of the ancient world, not only Graeco-Roman, as well as the socio-cultural meaning of the various text typologies attested.. A selection of significant texts will be presented and commented in translation.

Full programme

1. Introduction: Herodotus and the Greek papyri; the Greeks in Egypt.
2. Gift of the Nile: land cultivation.
3. Land measurement and taxation.
4. A marvellous world: upside-down writing and the mystery of the Labyrinth.
5. Between gods and sacred animals.
6. Egypt of astrologers and oracles.
7. Egyptian medicine.
8. Mummification and life after death.
9. Egyptian food.
10. Cities and villages in Egypt.
11. The thousand faces of papyrus.
12. Egyptian erotics.
13. Multilingual Egypt: linguistic minorities and interpreters.
14. To the frontiers of Egypt.
15. Herodotus and the cultural training of the Greeks in Egypt.


Manual: N. Reggiani, "Papirologia: la cultura scrittoria dell’Egitto greco-romano", Parma: Athenaeum 2019.

Mandatory reading (as a support to the class): N. Reggiani, "I papiri greci ed Erodoto: per un percorso diacronico e interculturale", Parma: Athenaeum 2020.

Reference bibliography:

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

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

P. Parsons, "La scoperta di Ossirinco. La vita quotidiana in Egitto al tempo dei Romani", Roma: Carocci 2014.

R.S. Bagnall, "Papiri e storia antica", ed. it. a cura di M. Capasso, Roma: Bardi 2007.

G. Cavallo, "La scrittura greca e latina dei papiri. Una introduzione", Roma: Serra 2008.

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

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

Teaching methods

Frontal classes with PowerPoint slides (compatibly with the current healthcare directions). Guided practice exercises of transcription and interpretation of texts on papyrus. Study materials provided in class and then available on line (Elly platform).

*** Since the course will take place in the second semester, the teaching methods will be subordinated to the current health situation. If emergency persists, then the classes will be recorded and made available on the Teams platform along with the materials on the Elly platform.

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.