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The Papyrology (from Greek πάπυρος papyrus , the name of the papyrus plant or for the produced therefrom writing material papyrus , and λόγος lógos , word ',' teaching ') is a special discipline of classical studies , above all the classical philology and Old Story . Their subject matter is mainly ancient Greek , less often Latin texts on papyrus, ostraka , parchment , wood , wax and lead tablets and similar writing materials from archaeological find contexts.

Papyri, however, coming from archives and libraries of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages and are thus delivered continuously as the charters of Ravenna , papal documents on papyrus or Merovingian papyri and -codices not fall primarily into the work area papyrology, but the responsibility of other Disciplines such as Byzantine Studies , Latin Paleography or Diplomatics .

The texts in Greek and Latin treated by papyrology come mainly from the Greco-Roman period in Egypt from around 300 BC. BC to AD 700, i.e. from the millennium between the conquest of the Nile land by Alexander the Great and the abolition of the Greek administrative language by the Arabs after they came to power in the course of Islamic expansion . They are therefore important as evidence of the ancient written culture and social history for Hellenism , the imperial era and late antiquity . Papyri that were not labeled with texts in ancient Greek or Latin, are the responsibility of other disciplines such as Egyptology , Demotistik , Coptic , Arabic , Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies , with which the Papyrology in interdisciplinary is closely linked cooperation.


Papyri were mainly found in Egypt , where the perennial grew in the Nile Delta and was processed into writing material and used as such since the third millennium BC. Papyrus was also exported on a large scale to the other regions of the ancient Mediterranean and was generally used as the most important writing material, but the climatic conditions elsewhere are less favorable for the permanent preservation of papyrus, so that the vast majority of papyri dealt with in papyrology come from Egypt come. For the few other places of origin see below. Vornehmliche tasks of multiple Papyrology are the cataloging , Edition , linguistic and factual commentary and the treatment and research of papyri as historical sources as well as linguistic evidence and or or as textual witnesses of literary texts and their transmission, further research into the ancient culture of writing , so the Praxeology of writing , reading and writing. In order to cope with it, you need a comprehensive mastery of the philological tools as well as familiarity with the methods and results of ancient historical research and numerous other related subjects. Whether it should therefore be viewed more as a philology or as a basic historical science is also controversial among papyrologists, depending on the course of study and main interests. In any case, it is a question of historical humanities and cultural studies . In German university policy, papyrology is classified as a minor subject .

Relationship to other sciences

In contrast, for example, to ancient numismatics and epigraphy , which are organizationally linked to these as sub- disciplines of ancient history , papyrology as an independent subject is an indispensable basic science in the sense of Karl Brandi for a whole range of other subject areas, as it opens up an important part of their source base explores:

  • Ancient history, especially its sub-disciplines of economic and social history , can draw conclusions about ancient everyday life and economic relationships (e.g. price developments) or trade and communication channels from the analysis of documents received on papyrus can provide important information to areas that are mostly neglected in literary tradition.
  • Papyri allow - in comparison to other territories - a very detailed reconstruction of the power, army and administrative organization of the Ptolemaic Empire as well as the administration of the Roman province of Aegyptus and its principles.
  • The historical demography may consist of papyrus documents comparatively reliable estimates of population density and changes win in ancient Egypt.
  • The ancient legal history analyzes legal documents (for example about purchase, lease, credit transactions, marriage, employment contracts, etc.) and follows the development of the legal system, especially in the Hellenistic period.
  • The religious studies , theology and church history evaluates the preserved on papyrus earliest evidence for the text of the Greek Old and New Testament and interprets the numerous papyrus finds of early Christian apocryphal or patristic literature. Papyri are abbreviated in the textual criticism of the New Testament with the letter P in Fraktur with a superscript number: n . The list of New Testament papyri provides an overview .
  • Research into ancient magic relies heavily on papyri as sources.
  • The linguistics followed by means of papyri the emergence of ancient Greek vernacular, called Koine , an intermediate stage on the way from classical Ancient Greek to Modern Greek .
  • It provides medical history with important sources for the ancient health system and its practice.
  • The Classics will be sold for a surviving solely on papyrus, otherwise unknown texts to another important early textual evidence for the ancient history of the text and the textual criticism of the traditional through medieval manuscripts and therefore already known texts.
  • The charred papyri from the Villa dei Papiri near Herculaneum gave philosophy previously unknown texts, such as those of Epicurus and his students or of Philodemos of Gadara .
  • The Art History and Archeology pull surviving on papyri drawings and paintings approach.
  • Egyptology, Coptic Studies, Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies cooperate with papyrology, especially in researching the numerous bilinguals .

Epigraphy is to be distinguished from papyrology, which mainly deals with inscriptions on stone and metal, but traditionally also deals with texts on writing tablets, such as those found by the archaeologist Robin E. Birley in Roman Vindolanda . Their extremely demanding decipherment and edition, however, only succeeded the team led by the papyrologically trained ancient historian Alan K. Bowman and the papyrologist J. David Thomas .

Papyrology uses the knowledge of palaeography , the theory of letter forms and the development of scripts and the use of certain abbreviations, for dating, as does the knowledge of codicology , which allows dating based on the properties of binding, pagination, etc. Since the majority of papyri are not in book script but in italics and the state of preservation is often poor and incomplete, deciphering is very demanding and requires appropriate knowledge in order to be able to read and edit the texts .

Papyri in the Egyptian language ( Hieratic , Demotic , Coptic ), in Hebrew , Persian , Arabic and in other languages ​​fall within the scope of other disciplines (e.g. Egyptology ).

Documentary and literary papyri

Like other text research disciplines, papyrology distinguishes between documentary and literary texts. Among the documentary texts that make up the vast majority of the papyri preserved include records , personal and business letters , contracts , commercial documents , all correspondence from and with agencies such as official orders to petition authorities ( petitions ) and tax receipts , further Administrative files such as tax and land lists. Papyri that can be assigned to a private or public archive based on the circumstances of their finds or their content or palaeographical characteristics are particularly informative , because this results in a condensation of information about individual persons, families or institutions and developments can often be observed over longer periods of time. According to the sources , the documentary papyri are assigned to the remnant sources , because at the time these documents were created, no one thought of passing them on and their preservation is therefore more or less a matter of chance. They are therefore immediate and unadulterated evidence of the past.

The literary papyri and thus the tradition include all copies of texts that have been preserved on papyrus and which have been included in the direct tradition (or were intended for it). These are texts that, because of their general interest and their literary quality, appeal to a contemporary audience and possibly also to posterity. These texts can convey a picture of the past that is subjectively colored by the author's intention. Such papyri served under certain circumstances as a basis for copying copies and thus for distribution and text transmission.

For the historical evaluation, the remnant sources are therefore often much more informative than literary sources, which interpret the situation to a high degree or sometimes even disguise the reality and which were sometimes edited later. The documentary papyri are almost the only available text sources for many questions, especially those relating to everyday life, legal reality and economic and social conditions as well as administrative practice .

Origin of the papyri

Most of the papyri come from Egypt. Between 332 BC AD, when. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, and 642 n. Chr., When the country by Islamic Arabs was taken that was official and common language in Egypt mostly ancient Greek . Only the papyri in this language and the (very few) Latin pieces are dealt with by papyrology. The earliest known Greek papyri from Egypt are in the early 3rd century BC. BC originated. Since the Arabs stuck to the traditional administration of the Nile country for several decades, Greek was not abolished as the official language there until 693.

A small part of the preserved papyri comes from other areas of the Roman Empire. Important papyrus finds outside Egypt are the papyri from Herculaneum (where the papyri were charred by the ashes of Vesuvius in 79 AD, but have been preserved and can be made legible thanks to modern technology) or the papyri from Dura Europos on the Euphrates and those from the Nabatean Petra .

Edition, evaluation and storage

Generally trained classical scholars are hardly able to work with unedited sources in the field of papyrology, since they do not have the necessary specialist knowledge. At most, complete papyri, which are written in so-called book script, are also accessible to other researchers. The processing and editing of the papyri by experts trained in papyrology is therefore of particular importance, as researchers from a wide range of disciplines depend on this special discipline (see above). The Leiden bracketing system is used to precisely identify gaps, letters that have been read uncertainly, additions, dissolved abbreviations, corrections or deletions by the writer, corrections or deletions or by the editor . In the edition, the original spelling and linguistic features are retained, but the deviation from the standard language is mentioned in the line comment and, if necessary, explained. When recording and cataloging the material, the subject recognized the enormous possibilities of digitization at an early stage.

The Institute for Papyrology at the University of Heidelberg , headed by Andrea Jördens, maintains the complete directory of all published Greek papyri in Egypt, initiated by Dieter Hagedorn . In addition, other indispensable research instruments of the subject that can still be traced back to Friedrich Preisigke are processed:

  • the list of amendments to the Greek papyrus documents from Egypt (in cooperation with Francisca AJ Hoogendijk, Papyrological Institute of the University of Leiden ), a systematic compilation of all suggestions for amendments to the reading of papyrus texts
  • the dictionary of the Greek papyrus documents from Egypt, the complete recording of the word material and the references in the papyri
  • the collection book of Greek papyrus documents from Egypt, the collection of all scattered edited papyri in a standard edition

Other important tools are the projects headed by Roger Bagnall , Director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University , which enables targeted searches for documentary papyri in several relevant databases. The originally independent Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), which makes the holdings of important collections accessible, has now been integrated. The Papyrologique bibliography published by the Association Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth and the Center de Papyrologie et d'Épigraphie grecque of the Université Libre de Bruxelles can also be accessed via, which records the relevant literature and is regularly updated.

At the University of Leuven , another information portal has been established with Trismegistos under the direction of Mark Depauw, the specialty of which is that it exceeds the limits that exist due to the different languages ​​and text carriers and has a particularly wide time horizon ("800 BC - AD 800") detected.

History of papyrology

The history of papyrology does not begin with Napoleon's first Egyptian campaign in 1798, but as early as 1752 with the discovery of the Villa Ercolanese dei Papiri in the city ​​of Herculaneum, buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD . The restoration and edition of the more than 800 charred papyrus scrolls found here has been ongoing ever since. The first volume appeared in 1793. As early as 1788, the Dane Nils Iversen Schow in Rome published the first papyri found by fellahs in Egypt.

Since the 19th century, in addition to accidental finds and robbery excavations, scientists have also deliberately dug for papyri, among others near Memphis and Thebes , in Soknopaiu Nesos ( Dime ) in Fayum, in Oxyrhynchos , Tebtynis and Hibeh . More and more documentary and literary papyri, including Speen des Hypereides and the Athenaion Politeia (The State of Athens) by Aristotle , came to light and were published, so that the importance of the papyri as witnesses to the text transmission became increasingly clear. The result was that more and more classical philologists, ancient historians and legal historians turned to the new discipline of papyrus studies in whole or in part, and papyrology was finally able to establish itself as an independent subject. In 1902, the Berlin Papyrus Commission (members Richard Schöne , Hermann Diels , Adolf Erman , Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff ) founded by the Prussian Minister of Education Konrad von Studt in 1901 founded the German Papyrus Cartel under the direction of Otto Rubensohn , in order to acquire papyri Competition between German collections when purchasing should be avoided. Milestones in research were the Basics and Chrestomathie of the Papyrus Certificate by Ulrich Wilcken and Ludwig Mitteis , published in two volumes (two half volumes each) by Teubner in Leipzig in 1912, and the handbook La papirologia by Orsolina Montevecchi , published by the Società Editrice Internationale in 1973 in Florence . Several factors were decisive for the rapid progress: the methodological principle, which goes back to Theodor Mommsen , “that the archives of the past should be sorted”, that is, that the source material is to be fully recorded, edited and commented on regardless of the current assessment of its source value; the organizational work of Friedrich Preisigke, who prepared the necessary reference works on the initiative of Otto Gradenwitz (see above); the development of the new digital possibilities for the humanities, in which the subject under the leadership of Dieter Hagedorn at Heidelberg University and John F. Oates and William H. Willis at Duke University has done pioneering work and continues to play a prominent role; the interdisciplinarity and the intensive international cooperation under the motto of the amicitia papyrologorum (friendship of papyrologists), which have met almost completely every three years at their world congress since 1930.

Eminent papyrologists

The names of Amedeo Angelo Maria Peyron (1785–1870), who worked as a papyrologist and coptologist in the 1820s and published the first edition of a series of papyri, stand for the beginnings of papyrology as a modern scientific discipline . Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869–1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871–1934), were the discoverers and editors of numerous papyri, especially the Oxyrhynchus papyri and the Amherst papyri . For the papyrology of the first half of the 20th century, the works of Friedrich Preisigke (1853-1924), Otto Gradenwitz (1860-1935), Ulrich Wilcken (1862-1944), Wilhelm Schubart (1873-1960), Leopold Wenger (1874–1953), Hugo Ibscher (1874–1943), Walter Otto (1878–1941), Fritz Robert Pringsheim (1882–1967) and Emil Kießling (1896–1985) were influential.

The basic introduction La Papirologia , Turin 1973, most recently Milan 1991, comes from the Italian Orsolina Montevecchi . A more recent introduction comes from Hans-Albert Rupprecht . The important papyrologists of the second half of the 20th century also include the British Alan K. Bowman , Bernard Grenfell , John R. Rea, Peter J. Parsons , J. David Thomas and Dorothy J. Thompson, the Belgian Jean Bingen , the Germans Dieter Hagedorn , Ludwig Koenen , Wolfgang Luppe , Herwig Maehler , Hans Julius Wolff and Friedrich Zucker , the Finn Jaakko Frösén , the French Jean Gascou , the Polish-born Joseph Mélèze-Modrzejewski and Jean Scherer , the Italians Tiziano Dorandi , Marcello Gigante , Manfredo Manfredi , the Dutch Pieter J. Sijpestein and Klaas A. Worp, the Poles Rafał Taubenschlag and Ewa Wipszycka, and the Americans Roger Bagnall , James G. Keenan, Naphtali Lewis and Herbert C. Youtie . A list of the scholars who emerged as editors of papyri can be found on the Trismegistos page (see below).

Institutes and associations

In Germany there is a professorship for papyrology at the universities of Heidelberg (currently Andrea Jördens ) and Trier (currently Fabian Reiter ). Furthermore, legal history chairs and institutes in Freiburg, Göttingen, Munich, and Leiden deal with papyrology. At the Institute for Classical Studies at the University of Cologne, the department for papyrology, epigraphy and numismatics of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy , founded by Reinhold Merkelbach , has existed since 1972 , under the direction of the classical philologist Jürgen Hammerstaedt .

At the University of Vienna (location: Austrian National Library because of the papyrus collection housed there , which with 180,000 objects is one of the largest in the world) there is a special work area for papyrology, which was initiated by the classical philologist Hermann Harrauer . In 2004 the first professorship for papyrology and ancient history was established, which was awarded to his first graduate student , Bernhard Palme . Papyrology is currently compulsory for students of ancient history and antiquity in Vienna - a specialty in German-speaking countries.

The list of papyrus collections provides information on important German and international papyrus collections. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri collection in Oxford is famous and important and contains over 400,000 pieces. In the United States, there are significant papyrus collections at the University of Michigan and Duke University in North Carolina.

The Association Internationale de Papyrologues (AIP) is an international association for advocacy and project funding in the field of papyrology.

See also



  • Rodney Ast: Papyrology: Literary and Documentary
  • Roger Bagnall : Reading papyri, writing ancient history. Routledge, London et al. 1995, ISBN 0-415-09376-7 .
  • Roger Bagnall: Egypt. From Alexander to the Copts. An archaeological and historical guide. British Museum Press, London 2004, ISBN 0-7141-1952-0 .
  • Roger S. Bagnall, Bruce Frier: The demography of Roman Egypt (= Cambridge Studies in Population, Economy, and Society in past Time 23). Reprinted edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1995, ISBN 0-521-46123-5 .
  • Roger S. Bagnall: The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology (Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History Series). Oxford University Press, Oxford u. a. 2009 ISBN 978-0-19-984369-5
  • Alain Delattre, Paul Heilporn, Electronic Resources for Graeco-Roman and Christian Egypt. A Review of the State of the Net (March 2014), in: Bibliotheca orientalis, 71, 2014, col. 307-331.
  • Joachim Hengstl et al. (Ed.): Greek papyri from Egypt as evidence of public and private life. Greek-German (presented to our honored teacher Prof. Dr. jur. dr. hc Hans-Julius Wolff on his 75th birthday on August 27th). Heimeran, Munich 1978.
  • Andrea Jördens : Texts from the environment of the Old Testament , New Series, ed. v. B. Janowski - G. Wilhelm, Volume I: Texts on legal and economic life , Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, Gütersloh 2004 (therein: Chapter V 6.1 Der Zolltarif (together with I. Kottsieper), pp. 280–292; Ch. VII: Greek texts from Egypt, pp. 313–354). Volume II: State treaties, rulers' inscriptions and other documents on political history , Gütersloh 2005 (therein: Chapter VIII Greek texts from Egypt, pp. 369–389). Volume III: Briefe , Gütersloh 2006 (therein: Chapter VIII Greek letters from Egypt, pp. 399–427). Volume IV: Omina, oracle, rituals and conjurations , Gütersloh 2008 (therein: Chapter IV– Dream recordings from the Serapeum - the Katochoi, p. 374–377; Chapter VII Greek texts from Egypt, p. 417-445). Volume V: Texts on Medicine , Gütersloh 2010 (therein: Chapter V Greek Texts from Egypt, pp. 317-350). Volume VI: grave, coffin, building and votive inscriptions , Gütersloh 2011 (therein: Chapter IX Greek texts from Egypt, pp. 403–436). Volume VII Hymns, Lamentations and Prayers , Gütersloh 2013 (therein Chapter V Greek Texts from Egypt, pp. 273-310). Vol. VIII Wisdom Texts Myths and Epics , Gütersloh 2015 (therein Chapter VII Greek Texts from Egypt, pp. 479-518).
  • Orsolina Montevecchi : La papirologia. Società Editrice Internationale, Florence 1973; Vita e pensiero, edited new edition. Milan 1991.
  • Peter J. Parsons : The city of the sharp-nosed fish. Everyday life in ancient Egypt. Translated from the English by Yvonne Badal. Bertelsmann, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-570-00459-3 (also a good popular introduction to the workings of papyrology).
  • Hans-Albert Rupprecht : A short introduction to papyrus studies . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1994, ISBN 3-534-04493-2 .
  • Wilhelm Schubart : Introduction to papyrus studieshttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Deinfhrungindie00schuuoft~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn10~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Einf%C3%BChrung%20in%20die% 20 Papyrus lore% 27% 27 ~ PUR% 3D . Weidmann, Berlin 1918.
  • Ludwig Mitteis , Ulrich Wilcken : Fundamentals and Chrestomathie der Papyrusurkunde , Vol. 1–2. Teubner, Leipzig 1912.
  • Hans-Julius Wolff : The law of the Greek papyri of Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies and the Principate (handbook of antiquity X 5, 2), organization and control of private legal transactions. Ch.Beck, Munich 1978.
  • Hans-Julius Wolff: The law of the Greek papyri of Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies and the Principate (Handbook of Antiquity X 5, 1), Vol. 1 Conditions and driving forces of legal development , ed. by Hans-Albert Rupprecht. Ch.Beck, Munich 2002 ISBN 978-3-406-48164-2

Magazines / periodicals

Comprehensive directory, including the common abbreviations:


A detailed directory of the corpora of edited papyri, also with common abbreviations:

Series of publications

A detailed directory of the series, also with common abbreviations:

Ostraka and tablets

A detailed list of the editions, also with common abbreviations:


A detailed list of resources and reference works, also with common abbreviations:

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Michael R. Ott, Rebecca Sauer, Thomas Meier (Eds.): Materiale Textkulturen. Concepts - Materials - Practices (= Material Text Cultures , Volume 1). de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston / Munich 2015.
  2. Small subjects: papyrology on the Kleine Fächer portal , accessed on April 23, 2019.
  3. See Vindolanda tablets online .
  4. Palaeography - Basic Concepts. Website of the University of Passau ( Memento of the original from October 19, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. See for example: Karl Sudhoff : Medical information from Greek papyrus documents. Building blocks for a medical cultural history of Hellenism (= studies on the history of medicine. Issue 5/6, ISSN  0256-2634 ). Barth, Leipzig 1909.
  6. Information on the Petrapapyri on the page
  8. Heidelberg complete directory of the Greek papyrus documents of Egypt
  9. .
  10. APIS
  11. ^ Bibliography Papyrologique
  13. ^ Page by Nadine Quenouille on the history of papyrology ; Mario Capasso (ed.), Hermae. Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology (Biblioteca degli "Studi di egittologia e di papirologia"), Vol. 1-4. Giardini, Pisa 2007-2015.
  14. ^ Nils Iversen Schow, Charter Papyracea Graece Scripta Musei Borgiani Velitris Qua Series Incolarum Ptolemaidis Arsinoiticae in Aggeribus Et Fossis Operantium Exhibetur, Rome 1788.
  15. Oliver Primavesi, On the history of the German papyrus cartel
  16. ^ Theodor Mommsen: Inaugural speech July 8, 1858. In: Ders .: Reden and essays. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 2nd ed. Berlin 1905, p. 37: "It is the foundation of historical science that the archives of the past are sorted." Cf. Stefan Rebenich, Theodor Mommsen and Adolf Harnack. Science and politics in Berlin at the end of the 19th century. de Gruyter, Berlin New York 1997, p. 227; P. 640.
  17. ^ Necrology for John F. Oates
  18. International papyrology congresses
  19. See article PEYRÒN, Amedeo Angelo Maria in Dizionario biografico .
  20. On the history of the discipline and on individual scholars cf. Mario Capasso (ed.), Hermae. Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology (Biblioteca degli "Studi di egittologia e di papirologia"), Vol. 1-4. Giardini, Pisa 2007-2015; James G. Keenan, history of th discipline, in: Roger S. Bagnall. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, Oxford 2009, pp. 59-78 .
  21. See Dorothy J. Thompson on the Faculty of Classics page at the University of Cambridge
  22. See list of well-known papyrologists .
  23. ^ Institute for Legal History at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg ( Memento of the original from June 22, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  24. Leopold Wenger Institute for Legal History, Department for Ancient Legal History and Papyrus Research ( Memento of the original of May 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. ^ Papyrology - Leiden University. In: Leiden University. Retrieved January 18, 2017 (American English).
  26. ^ Papyrus collection of the Austrian National Library
  27. University of Michigan papyrus collection
  28. ^ Papyrus Archives Duke University
  29. side of the AIP , where a list of members and a list of research institutes is .