Unité de grec ancien



The architecture of documentary papyri (2019 - 2023)

A project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (# 182205)

Greek documentary papyri: from architecture to periodization (2023 - 2026)

A project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (# 212424)

 Typology is to documents what the theory of architecture is to buildings. Presently, there is no comprehensive coverage of the typology of Greek documentary papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt. Of the more than 60’000 texts available, written between the third century BC and the seventh century AD, we have acquired some extensive knowledge of the particular form of many kinds of documents; but our understanding of how they relate one to another is still sketchy because we lack a proper overview of the material.

Instead of producing a bulky monograph on this topic, it seems more appropriate to develop a digital instrument that would rely on the pre-existing database of texts, and to expand it so as to cover the typology of those documents, i.e. their layout or architecture. Not all documents should be taken into account, but only those which offer the clearest profile for the proposed purpose. In short: how did a trained scribe prepare any specific document within the context of Graeco-Roman Egypt?

In the first phase of the project, our aim has been to cover the Ptolemaic period (ca. 300 BCE - 30 BCE) and the Roman period (ca. 30 BCE - 300 CE).

This new digital instrument belongs to the expanding domain of the Digital Humanities. It will constitute the basis from which to push further research in two directions: a) sketching an overall typology of Greek documentary papyri; b) studying some specific topics pertaining to this general question.

Among the specific topics, one deserves a comprehensive and fresh coverage: the form of the so-called hypomnema (in today’s terminology: memo). This type of document is used both in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, and appears in various contexts. The architecture of this particular document, as well as its complex relationship with other forms of document, should be examined on a new footing.

 Work in progress : the grammateus website in its current state.

 In 2023, the grammateus project has entered a new phase, where we intend to extend our coverage of Greek documents to the Byzantine period (ca. 300 - 700 CE). The workflow is firmly established but we must integrate documents that belong to types already identified; adapt our descriptions accordingly; and add new types that may appear only in the Byzantine period.

The notion of periodization itself begs the question: does the typology that has emerged from our classification and description confirm the standard division into those three periods? This question seems especially acute as regards the shift from the Roman to the Byzantine period. Therefore, we intend to treat this as a specific topic, focusing in particular on tax documents and on contracts.

Another aim will be to make grammateus more stable and durable, reducing the need for maintenance. We shall also improve the integration of grammateus among existing tools.

Research team

PI: Prof. Paul Schubert [2019 - 2026]

Papyrologist: Dr. Susan Fogarty [2019 - 2023]

Papyrologist: Dr. Ruey-Lin Chang [2023 - 2025]

Digital Humanities specialist: Dr. Elisa Nury [2019 - 2023]

Digital Humanities specialist: NN [2023 - 2026]

Doctoral student: Ms. Lavinia Ferretti [2019-2023]

Doctoral student: Mr. Gianluca Bonagura [2023 - 2026]