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What is a ‘papyrus’?

A ‘papyrus’ is a fragment of a papyrus roll. (The singular term ‘papyrus’ is applied to more than one fragment, where the fragments come from the same roll.) The Greek word for papyrus roll is normally translated into English as ‘book.’ This is accurate in that the roll constituted the writing technology of antiquity but misleading in that the roll did not of course look like what we would today call a ‘book.’ Moreover, given the limited space available in a papyrus roll, a given literary work might take up more than a single roll, so there was not necessarily a one-on-one equivalency between a work and a ‘book.’  

Papyri are often scrappy, measuring just a few inches and preserving only the beginnings (or middles or ends) of the lines of writing which covered the roll in neatly laid-out columns. If we are lucky, the salvaged words are sufficient to enable us to identify the literary work from which the lines come. In the case of Strabo, it is usually assumed that if the words can be identified as coming from, for example, Book 2 of Strabo's Geography then the papyrus is a fragment of a roll which, before it disintegrated or was torn up, contained Book 2 as a whole. Some caution is necessary. The fragment may, for example, have come from an abridged version of Strabo’s work.

The following papyri of Strabo’s Geography have been found, attributed to the 2nd and 3rd centuries:

P. Köln 8, in B. Krebber and R. Hübner, eds., Kölner Papyri [Papyrologica Coloniensia 7]

1 (1976) 27-32. One papyrus fragment containing text from the end (absent in the manuscripts) of Book 7 of the Geography. Hence, P. Köln 8 provides new ‘fragments’ of the lost part of the Geography (7 fr. 11a, 12a, Radt). See also:

- Krebber, B. ‘Naustologoi bei Strabon: ein neues Papyrusfragment (P. Colon. inv. nr. 5861).’ Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 9 (1972) 204-221 and Plate 6b.
- Krebber, B. ‘Corrigenda.’ Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 10 (1973) 188.
- Merkelbach, R. ‘Methone - Methana.’ Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigaphik 10 (1973) 194-196.

P. Oxyrhynchus 3447, in A. Bülow-Jacobsen and J.E.G. Whitehorn, eds, Oxyrhynchus

Papyri 49 (1982) 47-73, and Plate 4. Numerous fragments containing text from Geography 9.1.14 - 9.5.22, C395-443. Edited by Whitehorn. For images of 3447 on the Oxyrhynchus database, click here.

P. Laur. III 294 A, in Eirene 32 (1996) 96. Contains 124 C, 17-20. Edited by R. Pintaudi.
P. Oxyrhynchus 4459 in M.W. Haslam and others, eds, Oxyrhynchus Papyri 65 (1998) 71-75,

and Plate 10. Two fragments, containing text from Geography 2.5.20-24, C123-125. Edited by D. Hughes. For images of 4459 on the Oxyrhynchus database, click here.


A papyrus of Strabo's History?

P. Vogliano 46, ed. G. Pugliese Caratelli, in Papiri della Universita degli Studi di Milano 2

(1961). Fragment containing short piece of text. For earlier publication, see:

- Vogliano, Achille, Un papiro storico greco della Raccolta Milanese e le campagne dei Romani in Etiopia (Milan 1940).
- Turner, E.G., ‘Papyrus 40 ‘Della Raccolta Milanese’,’ Journal of Roman Studies 40 (1950) 57-59.
- Stroux, Johannes, ‘Das historische Fragment des Papyrus 40 der mailänder Sammlung,’ in Sitzungsberichte der deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Klasse für Sprachen, Literatur und Kunst 1952.2 (Berlin 1953).
Assigned to Strabo’s lost History by Giacomo Manganaro, ‘Il Pap. Vogl. 46 (40) di Milano

e la battaglia di Pselchis,’ Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 18 (1974) 157-71.
Translated into Italian, with commentary, by D. Ambaglio (1990) 405 and 416.