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Ancient Classical

By Roger S. Bagnall

Most of the standard writing from the traditional world—that is, casual writing now not meant for a longevity or vast public distribution—has perished. Reinterpreting the silences and blanks of the ancient list, prime papyrologist Roger S. Bagnall convincingly argues that normal people—from Britain to Egypt to Afghanistan—used writing of their day-by-day lives way more largely than has been famous. Marshalling new and little-known facts, together with amazing graffiti lately came upon in Smyrna, Bagnall provides a desirable research of writing in numerous segments of society. His publication bargains a brand new photograph of literacy within the historic international within which Aramaic competitors Greek and Latin as a very good overseas language, and within which many different neighborhood languages boost technique of written expression along those metropolitan tongues.

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Sample text

Even before the arrival of outside pressure, the archaic use of Akkadian on clay tablets had started to give way to Aramaic on leather and papyrus, a transition strongly reinforced by Seleucid official decisions. , Seleucia gave enormous public prominence to its vast archives, in which evidently Greek documents predominated—but Greek documents of private individuals alongside those of the government. The main lines of the papyrus documentation from Egypt are thus reproduced faithfully, even if there is no exact Egyptian parallel to the role played by the tablets.

Photograph courtesy of Adam Bülow-Jacobsen. from excavations of habitation sites, and from these we get a sense of what tends to remain in sites or to have been dumped on adjoining rubbish heaps. The finds are extremely varied. The bulk of them are badly preserved and unrelated to one another, but it is common to find clusters of texts. Much of this material was discarded in antiquity, either by being taken deliberately to the dump—a relatively good survival strategy, as it turns out, perhaps because dumps were mostly in the desert, like the one at the Eastern Desert fort of Maximianon shown in fig.

There may be scattered texts that do come from such activity, but they do not form a significant part of the total corpus of Ptolemaic papyri. At this point it seems unlikely that this picture will be dramatically changed, particularly because it is much the same as the picture for earlier periods. Still, one can hope; the recent excavations of the Ptolemaic habitation areas at Tebtunis have found some papyri, and perhaps renewed excavations at Hibeh will find some also. In general, however, at most sites the Roman period is the first one for which habitation and dump debris has not been destroyed by the passage of time, probably operating in the form of damp and thus working from the bottom up.

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