Pasts Imperfect (5.18.23)
A New Fragment of Empedocles, Roman Doctors, Ancient Kosher Garum, and More
This week, papyrologist and book historian Nathan Carlig discusses the “Cairo Empedocles,” a new fragment of Empedocles’ poem On Nature. Then, the grave of an early imperial traveling doctor and his tools are unearthed in Hungary, sketching the future of the history of philosophy, a digital project maps medieval Sudanic empires, a family of Syriac scribes, reconstructing ancient color, new ancient world journals, upcoming lectures and conferences, and more.
The Cairo Empedocles: a new fragment of Empedocles’ poem On nature
Almost all of our knowledge of the 5th century BCE philosopher, Empedocles, and other Greek philosophers before Socrates comes from quotations, paraphrases, and summaries in later authors, such as Aristotle, Plutarch, and Simplicius. This changed in 1999, with the publication by Alain Martin (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Oliver Primavesi (LMU München) of the Strasbourg Empedocle (P.Strasb. gr. Inv. 1665-1666): fragments of a 1st cent. CE papyrus roll from Panopolis in Upper Egypt that offered the first direct attestation of a Pre-Socratic philosopher.
The roll originally contained the entirety of Empedocles’ On Nature, a hexameter poem on natural philosophy. This exceptional discovery enabled scholars to compare the text of the papyrus with that of the cited fragments known so far and, above all, revealed a significant number of unknown verses. These verses mainly deal with the Empedocles’ theory of cosmic cycles and can largely be attributed to the first book of the poem.
In 2021, among the unpublished papyri at the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO) in Cairo, I identified P.Fouad inv. 218 as a new fragment of Empedocles’ On Nature including thirty otherwise unattested verses. The fragment contains two columns of text, separated by an intercolumnium, and an upper margin. The right, left, and bottom of the papyrus are mutilated, so that the left column bears the end of thirteen verses, while the right column consists of the beginning of twenty. The character of the writing and its layout and support and the state of the preservation and traces of ancient reuse of the papyrus indicate that it is part of the same roll, or a roll of the same edition, as the Strasbourg fragment.
The recovered text introduces Empedocles’ theory of pores, describing how perception occurs when particles emitted by objects enter the sense organs through small holes corresponding to the particles form and size. We know from the surviving fragments and the testimony of Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and others that this theory was a fundamental part of Empedocles doctrine, with which he explained many natural phenomena, including magnetism and vision. This text of P. Fouad inv. 218 will add important details to our understanding of this part of Empedocles’ teaching, as is suggested by the many Empedoclean hapax legomena the new fragment contains.
This discovery will be presented at King’s College, London, on May 26th, 2023, and at Tel Aviv University on June 15th, 2023. The editio princeps of P.Fouad inv. 218 will be published by Nathan Carlig, Alain Martin, and Oliver Primavesi by the end of 2023 in the series Papyrologica Bruxellensia (Association Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth: Brussels).
For more on Empedocles:
K. Scarlett Kingsley and Richard Parry. “Empedocles” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2020
Oliver Primavesi “Empedocles: Physical and Mythical Divinity” In The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy, edited by Patricia Curd and Daniel W. Graham, 0. Oxford University Press, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195146875.003.0009
For texts and translation of Empedocles’s fragments and testimonia see André Laks and Glen W. Most, Early Greek Philosophy Vol. 5, Western Greek Thinkers, Part 2. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016.
The website empedocles.acragas is an up-to-date collection of bibliography and other resources on Empedocles maintained by Jean Claude Picot
On the Strasbourg Empedocles
Alan Martin and Oliver Primavesi, L’Empédocle de Strasbourg Strasbourg: B.N.U.S.; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999.
Oliver Primavesi Empedokles: Physika I. Eine Rekonstruktion des zentralen Gedankengangs. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008
For further bibliography see the CEDOPAL Catalogue des papyrus littéraires grecs et latins Mertens-Pack³ entry MP³ 356.11
Public Scholarship and a Global Antiquity
Archaeologists associated with ELTE BTK Faculty of the Humanities (Budapest, Hungary), the Jász Museum, and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network have uncovered evidence for a traveling doctor in a grave excavated near Jászberény (Hungary). Radiocarbon dating of the grave places it in the first century CE.
During the department's excavation, the grave excavated with the help of students first saw the light of day of medical devices that were once placed in wooden chests near the feet. Pliers, needles, tweezers, as well as top-quality scalpels suitable for surgical interventions, as well as drug residues were discovered. The copper alloy scalpels were decorated with silver tausier and equipped with replaceable steel blades. A grinding stone was placed at the dead man's knee, which, based on the wear marks, could have been suitable for mixing herbs and other medicines.
Parallels are already being drawn with the famed surgical tools discovered at Pompeii. For those teaching or interested in material and literary evidence for ancient medicine, the impressive Medicine, Health, and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean (500 BCE–600 CE): A Sourcebook by Kristi Upson-Saia, Heidi Marx, and Jared Secord will be out in August 2023. You can request a review copy now.
At The Philosopher, Josh Platzky Miller and Lea Cantor consider “The Future of the History of Philosophy,” questioning both the standard, “from Plato to NATO,” narrative of “Western Philosophy” and the concept of “Western Philosophy” as such. They call for a reexamination of the history of philosophy in a global context.
On the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library blog, Syriac expert and lead cataloger James Walters discusses “Tracing Scribal Genealogies in Syriac Manuscripts: The Naṣro Family.” In it, he discusses scribal culture and a family of scribes by looking at the 170 known manuscripts copied by the Naṣro family from Alqūsh, Iraq from the 17th and 18th centuries. As Walters concludes:
The colophons of the manuscripts copied by the Naṣro family provide rich details about the work and legacy of this family from Alqūsh. There are other important scribal families, both from Alqūsh and nearby Tel Keppe, whose history could be similarly reconstructed from manuscripts in Reading Room, but their stories will have to wait for another time!
The beta version of The Gold Road Interactive Map is up via Howard University’s Center for African Studies. From an interactive map to teaching resources, the authors underscore that the project allows researchers, teachers, and students to explore medieval Sudanic empires.
The Gold Road Interactive Map highlights the people, places, and items related to the medieval Sudanic empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Gold, the region’s most valuable resource, moved along regional and trans-Saharan routes reaching as far north as France. The Gold Road invites users to explore hundreds of topics related to the empires and their role in global history.
The DH project is also supported by Africa Access and by the Boston University African Studies Center.
In the new edited volume Castalia: Studies in Indo-European Linguistics, Mythology, and Poetics, classicist Angelo O Mercado has an article on “Form in Latin and Umbrian Sacral Verse.” As Mercado explores, “Latin and Umbrian prayers can rather be scanned as four-beat verse.” Moreover, “The fact that the primitive meter is also found in poetic traditions that are not founded on accent also suggests its prehistoric coexistence with the PIE quantizing syllabic system of Meillet.” If you would like a copy of this article, please email email@example.com.
Over on his blog, religious studies expert Brent Nongbri discusses a coarse ware jar from Puteoli now at the British Museum (1856,1226.337), which has an dipinto (a painted inscription) possibly reading ‘GARCAST.’ Upon the label in the museum, curators have translated this abbreviation as “garum castimoniarum (kosher), for the Jewish market.” But what is the evidence for kosher fish sauce?
It is debatable whether these labelled jars held garum produced specifically for Jews, or even were made in a particular way that did not violate Jewish food prohibitions. There is, however, related evidence that suggests that special garum for Jews did exist in Roman antiquity, namely the presence of garum (and allec) jars at sites known to have Jewish inhabitants, namely Masada. During excavation there, a jar (apparently of the Herodian era) with a garum label was found. More telling perhaps is the discovery of a pot fragment with the remains of many small fish bones (inv. 7039-1047).
He concludes that there is “solid evidence” for garum or allec that fulfilled Jewish dietary laws; however, whether this should be identified with Pliny’s garum castum remains questionable.
The Met’s “Symposium—Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color” is now on YouTube. Of particular note is Najee Olya’s presentation on “Adjusting the Lens of Race: A Re-examination of Skin Color in Representations of Black Africans in Ancient Greek Vase-Painting,” but with ancient color research from Hermopolis Magna to Mexico: Every paper is a worthwhile listen.
New Antiquity Journal Issues (by @YaleClassicsLib)
Gnomon Vol. 95, No. 4 (2023)
New England Classical Journal Vol 50, No. 1 (2023) #openaccess NB Alex-Jaden Peart, “Divina Mens: Imperial Propaganda in De architectura 6.1”
Gephyra Vol. 25 (2023) #openaccess
Journal of Greek Linguistics Vol. 23, No. 1 (2023) #openaccess
CERÆ Vol. 9 (2022) #openaccess Ritual: Practice, Performance, Perception
Forum Classicum No.1 (2023) #openaccess
Liber Annuus Vol. 72 (2022)
Manuscript Studies Vol. 8, No.1 (2023)
Mouseion Vol. 19, No. 2 (2022)
Digital Philology Vol. 12, No. 1 (2023)
Journal for the Study of Judaism Vol. 54, No. 2 (2023)
Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society Vol. 36, No. 1 (2023) #openaccess
Frankokratia Vol. 4, No. 1 (2023)
Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 142, No.1 (2023) SBL Presidential Address, Adela Yarbo Collins “Ethics in Paul and Paul in Ethics”
International Journal of the Classical Tradition Vol. 30, No. 1 (2023) The Global Dissemination of Classical Learning
Journal of Ancient History and Archaeology Vol. 10, No. 1 (2023) #openaccess
Archäologischer Anzeiger 2. Halbband 2022 #openaccess
Phoenix Vol. 75, No. 3-4 (2021) NB, Geert Roskam, “Did The Stoic Lentil Soup Come From The Epicurean Kitchen?: Some Thoughts On a Neglected Stoic Doctrine (SVF 1.217)”
Online Lectures and Conferences
From May 22nd through 24th, the Lund University Department of Philosophy will host the online conference: Spiritual exercises, self-transformation and liberation in philosophy, theology and religion. Contributions will explore the global application of the concept of “spiritual exercises” developed by Pierre Hadot in his influential work on Greco-Roman philosophical practice.
On May 23, 2023, at 7:00 pm Athens (12pm EDT), Ida Östenberg will give a lecture for the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome titled, “Dulce et Decorum – to Die for the Fatherland in Ancient Greece and Rome.” You can sign up here to attend via Zoom or in person.
The 9th annual Islamicate Digital Humanities Network (IDHN) online conference will be held on May 31, 2023. It commences at 10:30 am ETD and will have papers from: Ursula Hammed (Munich University): “EGIPTOS - Establishing Groups, Identifying Patterns in Texts from Original Sources”; Estrella Samba-Campos (Universidad Complutense de Madrid): “Access to Knowledge: The kutub al-ʿilm and muṣannaf collections as aural databases”; Julio César Cárdenas Arenas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Islamic University of Madinah): “A Computational Linguistics Analysis of “Christians” and “Jews” in Ibn Taymīyah’s Legal Verdicts”; Tynan Kelly (University of Chicago): “The Digital Takhrīj: Tracing the Transmission of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib’s Orations (khuṭub) with Text-Comparison and Algorithm-Assisted Network Graphing.” In order to attend the conference, please register here.
On June 6, 2023 at 11:00 am ETD, online visitors are invited by the Harvard Art Museums to “join conservator Susan Costello as she focuses on numerous facets of color surrounding an ancient Greek ceramic vessel. She’ll explain how the original color was manufactured, what issue came up when conservators tried restoring the color, and how the Forbes Pigment Collection helped conservators figure out what went wrong.” This talk will take place online via Zoom. The event is free and open to all, but registration is required. To register, please complete this online form.
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