05 December, 2009

The Posidippus Scroll

Photo Compliments: bu.edu


I was searching for examples of the various types of poetry as I had promised when I thought that it would be great if I could actually get examples of Ancient Greek poetry rather than the modern ones. Well, my search led me to the Posidippus Scroll (also called the Milan papyrus). This papyrus scroll is more than 2000 years old and is the oldest surviving Greek poetry book. The papyrus bears 112 epigrams which have been attributed to third century B.C. writer Posidippus.

The scroll was found enshrouded with a body that was mummified for preservation. The mummy dates from the second century B.C. The mummy and the papyrus was found by tomb raiders. The papyrus was then passed through many European antiquities market in the 1900's until it was brought to the University of Milan in Italy.

Prior to its discovery, to of the poems on the scroll were already known and attributed to Posidippus. These were:

The purple whip and shimmering reins that deck the horse-
ennobled passage into your temple are gifts
of Plangon, who beat Philainis racing bareback, steed
against steed, the colts of evening just starting to whinny!
Beloved Kypris, grant her the glory she deserves
in victory, her thanks forever here memorialized.


Wherever you hold Pythermos the good, who died
under the chill of Capricorn, cover him lightly,
black Earth. But if it's you, Father of the Sea, who keep him
hidden, put him out now, intact, on the bare sand
in full view of Kyme [a place], giving, as you should, the dead man,
O Master of the Sea, back to his native land.

Among the newly discovered is:

Lysippus, Sikyonian sculptor, daring hand, learned artisan,
your bronze statue has the look of fire in its eyes,
that one you made in the form of Alexander. The Persians deserve
no blame. We forgive cattle for fleeing a lion.