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Saturday, January 05, 2013

American Society of Papyrologists (ASP) Panel at the APA, Seattle, 2013

Ancient Lives: Greek Texts, Papyrology and Artificial Intelligence 
James Brusuelas

The “Ancient Lives” project is an international collaboration between multiple departments and institutions: The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois, the Departments of Classics and Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, and the Departments of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, and Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota.  Through the Ancient Lives website, the project continues to amass an immense database of crowd-sourced transcribed texts in order to assist in the classification, cataloguing, and identification of the tens of thousands of papyrus fragments housed in the Sackler Library of the Ashmolean Museum.  Consequently, a digital database of both previously edited and unedited Greek papyri texts exists for the first time.  In addition to the computerized assistance in cataloguing and identifying documents and known literary texts, the aim of this project is to build a computational interface to assist in the critical editing of Greek texts. 

Two of the principal goals are: (1) to refine and implement a consensus algorithm, adapted from those used in the study of DNA sequencing, that collates multiple transcriptions, producing a variety of meaningful statistical data and digitally searchable transcriptions that will be accessible to scholars through a unique graphical user interface (GUI); 
(2) based on the extant strings of Greek characters, to implement algorithmic meaning extraction to assist in the contextualization and identification of unknown literary works through an automated projection of possible linguistic/word scenarios.  We are also aiming at computationally repairing gaps/holes in papyri through an automated projection of characters that are not only dimensionally suitable but also contextually sound through linguistic parallels elicited from the searchable online databases of Greek texts.  The purpose of this paper is to report initial project results and to outline in greater detail our methodology for building this computational interface.  In sum, we are merging human and machine intelligence – automated algorithmic methods – to increase the accuracy with which Greek texts are edited.  We are transforming image data from Oxyrhynchus papyri into meaningful information that scholars can use – information that once took generations to produce.

Homer and Hesiod in P.Oxy.  4648: Reconstruction and Interpretation
Michael Haslam

This paper examines the intriguing piece published as P.Oxy.  4648, “Prose on Star-Signs Quoting Homer, Hesiod, and Others,” edited by Dirk Obbink.  Published a decade ago, it plainly calls for attention, but has received virtually none.  (Glenn Most took over Obbink’s version of the Hesiod section unameliorated in his Loeb Hesiod, as T151.) I attempt to reach a more satisfactory reconstruction of the text, one that yields a better understanding of what is being said both about Homer and about Hesiod, and along the way to elicit something of the significance that the text holds for ancient literary criticism of each poet.

The text is written in a practiced bookhand, probably of the later 3rd century CE, reportedly on the back of a petition; there are remains of 33 lines of just one column, broken at either side.  What is under discussion is poets’ practical understanding of the constellations.  When our column begins, the author is discussing Homer; he moves on to Hesiod (appending mention of Aratus as Hesiod’s zelotes); then to Aeschylus and Sophocles; and there the papyrus breaks off.  I propose to deal with the sections on Homer and Hesiod, the first 23 lines.
The first tolerably clear (albeit largely restored) statement we meet is that Homer’s veiled meaning (αἰνιττόμενος) is that everything is controlled by the movements of the constellations.  I suggest that the author is here addressing a passage in the description of the Shield of Achilles, Il.  18.483-9 (485 ἐν δὲ τὰ τείρεα πάντα τά τ’ οὐρανὸς ἐστεφάνωται), and investing it with cosmological import, in line with Crates’ take on the Shield as a mimema tou kosmou.  Then, on my understanding of the text (different from Obbink’s), he proceeds to say that Homer conferred his astronomical knowledge on Odysseus.  Homer made advance arrangements (προοικονομῶν) for Odysseus’ skill at navigating by the stars in the Odyssey (5.272ff.) by endowing him with the ability to tell the time of night by the stars already in the Iliad (10.252f.), thereby lending plausibility to the Odyssey episode.  This implies that Homer wrote the Iliad with the subsequent Odyssey in mind, and tailored the prior poem accordingly, an interesting and unusual view of Homer’s compositional procedures.  I float the suggestion (without arguing the case) that the section on Homer may represent the Homeric criticism of Crates.

Then comes Hesiod.  Obbink took the papyrus’ “[X knew] these things likewise” to mean that Homer knew seafaring just as Odysseus did, but I argue that the sense is that Hesiod knew the workings of the constellations just as Homer did, this effecting the transition from the one poet to the other.  On this view the author is not differentiating the two according to their respective arenas of seafaring and farming (so Obbink, supplementing accordingly) but uniting them in their shared understanding of star-signs: he’s a lumper not a splitter.  (Cf.  H.H.  Koning, Hesiod: The Other Poet (2010), who unfortunately seems unaware of this text.) It is significant that the poet—Homer for Obbink, Hesiod for me—is introduced as ὁ ἡδυ]επής (suppl.  P.J.  Parsons ap.  Obbink, irresistibly).  I note the doubly allusive appositeness of conferring this distinctive epithet on Hesiod.  It is the epithet that Hesiod applies to his Muses (Cat.  1.1/Th.  1021, Th.  965); and in the later Greek and Roman tripartite classification of styles Homer’s Νέστωρ ἡδυεπής (Il.  1.247- 9) was the archetype of the “middle” style, the prime exemplar of which was Hesiod (Quint.  12.10.58-64, 10.1.52, cf.  Dion.Hal.  de comp.  23, Dem.  40).  I conclude by restoring coherence to the remainder of the Hesiod section, which defeated Obbink and Most.

Women’s Petitions in Later Roman Egypt: Survey and Case Studies
 Graham Claytor

Over 150 petitions from women survive from Roman and Byzantine Egypt.  Along with reports of proceedings on papyrus and imperial rescripts from outside Egypt, these constitute the best evidence we have for provincial women’s engagement with the law and help shape our view of the social position of women in the Roman Empire.  Taking the terminus of B.  Kelly’s recent study as a starting point, I first discuss petitions from women in the “long” fourth century (284- 400 CE) as a whole, and then examine the cases in which we can learn a little more about the women involved in litigation, in the context of archives.  I close by touching on the larger issues raised by Kelly and others, such as the agency of female petitioners and whether the legal system tended to undermine or reinforce traditional gender roles.

I focus on the “long” fourth century for three reasons.  First, Kelly’s study on petitioning and social control ends in 284 CE, the traditional papyrological divide between “Roman” and “Byzantine” Egypt.  R.S.  Bagnall, however, has shown that the real break was from the late fourth century on, when evidence for female petitioners is much scarcer and largely restricted to wealthy, educated widows (Bagnall, “Women's Petitions in Late Antique Egypt,” in Denis Feissel and Jean Gascou (eds.), La pétition à Byzance [Paris, 2004], 53-60).  The fourth century evidence continues to be marked by Kelly’s two “ideal types” of female petitioners: one, the woman isolated from male support through death, divorce, or other circumstances; the other, the woman of relatively high standing whose economic engagements brought her into legal conflict (Kelly, Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt [Oxford, 2011], 235ff.).  Thus, we can study these petitions in close comparison with the earlier period and in contrast to the later period.

A second reason is the prominence of female petitioners in the period 284-400.  From about 15% of total petitioners in the period 30 BCE - 284 CE, the percentage of female petitioners rises to over a quarter in the ‘long’ fourth century, then falls to about 10% after 400.  This paper explores the reasons behind this apparent surge, which is paralleled also in imperial rescripts, and argues that it represents a real rise in women’s participation in the legal sphere and independence, at least during the Tetrarchic period.
Third, the archives of this period offer the opportunity to learn more about the family situation and economic engagements of certain female petitioners.  I focus on the archives of Isidoros, Sakaon, Aurelia Demetria, and the descendants of Alopex in Panopolis.  The first archive presents a pair of sisters, Taesis and Kyrillous, whose engagement with litigation came early in life due to the deaths of both parents: their coming of age is marked by a struggle against their uncle for the control of their inheritance.  In the archive of Sakaon from Theadelphia, Artemis the daughter of Paesios and Heros uses the legal system to protect her children’s property after the death of her husband.  Finally, the archives of Aurelia Demetria and the descendants of Alopex give us valuable details from urban settings.  In Hermopolis, Demetria petitions about a disputed sale of land, and in Panopolis, we meet the oil-seller and landlady Theodora, whose business interests lead her to petition the prefect about a defaulting debtor.

This period offers us unparalleled evidence for women’s engagement in legal processes.  Through both a broad survey and a microhistorical approach, I argue that women in the ‘long’ fourth century actively engaged in legal processes to achieve their own goals and that this period of transition witnessed a slight relaxing of traditional gender roles.  Both trends were halted by the end of the century and reversed in the centuries to follow.

Outsourcing Army Duties: Foederati in Late Roman Egypt 
Anna Kaiser

This paper seeks to examine the status of foederati in Late Roman Egypt.  One hundred years ago Jean Maspero wrote an essay on 6th century CE foederati and soldiers (“Φοιδερᾶτοι et Στρατιῶται dans l’armée byzantin au VIe siècle,” BZ 21 [1912] 97-109).  Since then many more papyri have been edited that allow a better view of the Roman military organisation of Egypt in general and the question of foederati in particular.
The main focus of this paper is the status of foederati and their duties in Egypt, one of the more peaceful parts of the Late Roman Empire.  Included among these duties might well have been the screening of the road system in the Eastern Desert, formerly a well-known duty of Roman soldiers.  The Principate saw Egypt’s Eastern Desert dotted with small Roman outposts guarding the road system and important quarries.  By the 3rd century CE there is almost no evidence for them anymore.  This may give the impression that the roads through the Eastern Desert were unprotected, although they were seriously threatened by the Blemmyes, Egypt’s neighbours in the desert.  The continuing trade with Berenike and Myos Hormos should have mattered enough to maintain the military road screening system (cf.  O.Claud.  I-IV; O.Krok; O.MyosHormos; S.  Sidebotham, Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route, Berkeley 2011).  Papyrological and literary evidence together seem to suggest that those patrol duties formerly carried out by Roman soldiers were outsourced – to people and tribes living near the Roman borders.  These tribes may have even included the Blemmyes, a group that engendered a great deal of fear in the Egyptian inhabitants during the 5th and 6th centuries CE.  But both Eusebius and Abinnaeus, the praefectus alae of the ala V Praelectorum in 4th century Egypt, mention Blemmyan envoys in Constantinople, and Procopius refers to the retraction of the Roman frontier in 298 CE and gold delivered to the Blemmyes.  Some tribes of the Blemmyes therefore seem to have been Roman foederati (Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4, 7; P.Abinn.  1; Procopius, De bellis I 19, 27-37.) Another tribe appears to have formed the 6th century CE numerus of Pharanitae, which was stationed at Bau, a famous monastery, in the Thebaid.  The soldiers of this unit were first recruited in the Sinai peninsula, from a tribe living near the city of Pharan, not far from the famous Monastery of St.  Catherine (Ph.  Mayerson, “Pharanitai in Sinai and in Egypt,” BASP 47 [2010] 225-29).  The Latin word numerus, or its Greek equivalent ἀριθμός, was used for any kind of troop in Late Roman Egypt; the term does not distinguish between Roman soldiers or federates.  The Pharanitae may therefore provide another example of foederati in Late Antique Egypt – an example worth examining in more detail.