Milan Papyrus

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The Milan Papyrus[1] is a papyrus roll inscribed in Alexandria in the late 3rd or early 2nd century BC during the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Originally discovered by anonymous tomb raiders as part of a mummy wrapping, it was purchased in the papyrus "grey market" in Europe in 1992[2] by the University of Milan. Over six hundred previously unknown lines of Greek poetry are on the roll, representing about 112 brief poems, or epigrams. Two of these were already known and had been attributed by the 12th-century AD Byzantine scholar John Tzetzes to the Hellenistic epigrammatist Posidippus of Pella, a Macedonian who spent his literary career in Alexandria. The initial reaction has been to attribute all the new lines to Posidippus, though Franco Ferrari (link) suggests that there is evidence the manuscript is an anthology, in which Posidippus' epigrams predominated.

As the earliest surviving example of a Greek poetry book as well as the largest addition to the corpus of classical Greek poetry in many years, the tale of the discovery made The New York Times and National Geographic.[3]

Labelled the "Milan papyrus," it was published in a scholarly edition in 2001, edited by Guido Bastianini, Claudio Gallazzi and Colin Austin.[4] In 2002, Austin and Bastianini published a more popular edition,[5] Posidippi Pellaei quae supersunt omnia, "all the surviving works of Posidippus of Pella", including the epigrams of the papyrus, with Italian and English translations. Scholars have rushed to mine this new trove of highly conscious literary productions at the most sophisticated level that were created in a major center of Hellenistic culture.[6]

After a "standing-room only"[7] discussion at the American Philological Association annual meeting in January 2001,[8] a seminar on the Milan Papyrus was held at Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in April 2002, and international conferences were held at Milan, Florence and Cincinnati,[9] in November 2002.[10]

Scholarly work on the Milan Papyrus, on Posidippus, who is now revealed in a broader range of subjects, and on the Alexandrian literary epigram in general, was invigorated by the discovery and proceeds apace.[11]


  1. ^ Now P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309.
  2. ^ Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 39 (2002) p.165
  3. ^ National Geographic News
  4. ^ The editio princeps: Guido Bastianini, Claudio Gallazzi with Colin Austin Posidippo di Pella. Epigrammi (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309) (Milan:Edizioni Universitarii) 2001
  5. ^ The editio minor.
  6. ^ Leiden University: on-line bibliography of Posidippus: see especially 2001 onwards
  7. ^
  8. ^ Bing, Peter, "Posidippus on Stones. The First Section of the New Posidippus Papyrus (P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309, Col. I-IV.6)", American Philological Association Panel on the New Epigrams of Posidippus, (Philadelphia 2001).
  9. ^ University of Cincinnati news release.
  10. ^ "The New Posidippus"
  11. ^ The first issue of Harvard University's on-line classics, "Classics@" was devoted to Posidippus and the papyrus; it was updated March 2007. (Center for Hellenic studies: Classics@ Issue 1)


  • Bastianini G. - Gallazzi C. (edd.), Papiri dell’Università di Milano - Posidippo di Pella. Epigrammi, LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2001, ISBN 88-7916-165-2
  • Austin C. - Bastianini G. (edd.), Posidippi Pellaei quae supersunt omnia [1], LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2002, ISBN 88-7916-193-8
  • Un Poeta Ritrovato. Posidippo di Pella. Giornata di studio - Milano 23 novembre 2001, LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2002, ISBN 88-7916-199-7

External links[edit]