ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 44 (2007) 7-21
A Papyrus with Mathematical Problems
Marja Bakker Leiden University
Edition with commentary of P.Col. inv. 157a, a probable leaf of a
papyrus codex from the fourth-fifth century CE. The papyrus contains three mathematical exercises, of which not one is complete. The
exercises calculate areas of plots of land.
The medium-brown papyrus of good quality was purchased by Columbia
University from M. Nahman through H.I. Bell in 1924 (no. X.92 in Bell's inventory). Side B is darker than Side A.2 The fragment could be a page of a codex,
because both sides are written in the same hand and have the same orientation.
The handwriting is a rapid cursive. Because of several corrections and irregular
spacing between letters and words, it looks like an advanced schoolboy's hand;
see R. Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Atlanta 1996), nos. 155 ("overall clumsy appearance, but most letters are fluent")
and 166 ("evolving hand"). The papyrus is broken off at top and bottom.
1 This papyrus is part of the Papyrus Collection, Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
Columbia University, and is published with the permission of Professor R.S. Bagnall.
It was assigned to me during the 2006 Summer Seminar in Papyrology at Columbia
University, New York. I am very grateful to Professor Bagnall for giving me the opportunity to attend this Seminar, for his helpful suggestions concerning the decipherment
and interpretation of this text, and for his comments on an earlier version of this article.
I also would like to thank Professor K.A. Worp for his suggestions on readings, and
my colleague Dr. F.A.J. Hoogendijk for her useful suggestion on the nature of the text
and her valuable comments on an earlier version of this article. I am grateful to two
anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. Finally, I wish to extend my
thanks to Leiden University, the Leids Universiteits Fonds, and the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation for their financial support of my stay in New York.
2 The papyrus probably belonged to a codex and therefore it is not possible to determine which side is front and which back. Since the content is fragmentary it does
not help to give a definite answer. I follow the APIS website in assigning front (Side A)
and back (Side B).