12870 - Papyrology (1)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have acquired the tools for reading, annotating, dating and interpreting papyrus texts of the graeco-roman period. They will be able to: - explain original documents and describe and discuss the main issues concerning public institutions, society, private and public relations in Egypt during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, as well as implications of the periodization question. - contextualize documents by relating them to the main problems and themes of Papyrology as an academic subject, and employ some of the main methodological tools to interpret literary and documentary papyri dating to the Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine periods; - apply with accuracy retrieval methods and tools (including digital repositories) for locating parallel texts and secondary bibliography; - employ the tools needed for cataloguing, preserving and communicating to the public the historical relevance of the papyrus heritage.

Course contents

The course is an introduction into the discipline and its methods, especially into its definition and history, but also into the history of excavations and the description of the most relevant archeological sites in Egypt and outside. A special focus will lie on the description of the writing materials, also in relation of the texttypologies as well as bibliological aspects like writing formats, mise en page, inks, and writing styles. At the end of this part of the course the „Leiden System” of conventions used in papyrological editions will be presented.

The second part of the course will be dedicated to reading and interpretation of papyrological texts which are significant for the administrative, sociale, economic and cultural history of Greco-Roman Egypt, with special attention on the criteria of description, dating and comprehension of the texts. During this phase the main bibliographical and digital instruments for the papyrological research will be thoroughly explained.


Individual study:

1. N. Reggiani, Papirologia. La cultura scrittoria dell’Egitto greco-romano [Papyrotheke. Studi e Testi di Papirologia e Cultura Scrittoria Antica, vol. 5], Parma, Athenaeum Edizioni Universitarie, cap. I–V e tre capitoli a scelta tra cap. VI–XV.

2. A.K. Bowman, Egypt after the Pharaos, Oxford, OUP, 1986 (at least 2 chapters from chapters 2-7)

3. Students will be asked to answer questions about the original texts presented in the lectures. Original texts will be available in IOL with translation and commentary in Italian, German, French and English, depending on the original edition. All the texts will be translated and discussed in the lectures.

The students who cannot partecipate in the classes will be expected to prepare the books indicated on point 1 and 2 (point 2 the whole book) and a selection of textsagreed upon with the professor and uploaded in IOL.

Teaching methods

The course will consist mainly in lectures and in practical exercises aimed at consolidating the learning output of the lectures, and particularly the approach to the texts via modern digital instruments.

Assessment methods

Oral examination will test the student ability to analyze and interpret original sources for historical reconstruction (of political history, history of administration, economic and social history, cultural history and history of literature) starting from the texts discussed in class.

Intermediate tests will serve as a check of the learning outcome. The results can be considered for the final score.

Evaluation of excellence - will be awarded to students who will demonstrate:

  • the ability to link information acquired from direct and independent analysis of documents with the main issues and problems of discipline and the historical, cultural and social context.
  • Ability to present in a precise, accurate way, using disciplinary language, demonstrating organic mastery of the historical context and autonomy in the interpretation of sources.
  • Ability to use autonomously the main research tools even on unseen cases different from those discussed in class.

Good / Satisfactory - will be awarded to student who will show:

  • Ability to analyze documents discussed in class and knowledge of the themes and problems of the discipline and the historical, cultural and social context.
  • ability to express themselves properly, demonstrating awareness of the methodology needed for using documentary sources.
  • Autonomous use of tools on familiar cases

Average Suffiicent - In order to pass the exam even with a minimum- low grade students will need to:

  • describe the main issues concerning public institutions, society, private and public relationships of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt
  • interpret the texts according to the methodology discussed in class and apply the basic tools and information for the reconstruction of the context.
  • Express themselves with correct language.
  • show ability of basic use of tools

Teaching tools

Literature in traditional and digital form; Powerpoint presentations and images of papyri made available in IOL; databases

Office hours

See the website of Fabian Lothar Walter Reiter