Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 48 (2011) 283-284
Francesca Schironi, From Alexandria to Babylon: Near Eastern Lan guages and Hellenistic Erudition in the Oxyrhynchus Glossary (PROxy.
1802 + 4812). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. 176
pages + 13 plates. ISBN 978-3-11-020693-7.
It is generally thought that the Greeks had little interest in the languages
of "others;' and that their language was resistant to interference from other
languages. Texts such as the one presented here by Francesca Schironi speak
against this assumption.
The text known as POxy. 1802 + 4812 is a fully alphabetized glossary
containing "Persian;" "Babylonian;" and "Chaldaean" terms, as well as dialectal
and literary Greek terms. Since these terms derive from specialized literary
works, the entries are rich in quotations from ancient authors, most of them
lost. These include Berossus, Apollodorus, and even Aristotle, among others.
The book reviewed here is a reedition of the papyrus from Oxyrhynchus
known since 1922 (edited by AS. Hunt in POxy. 15), completed with fragments edited later on (in POxy. 71). Edited at a time when papyrologists were
on the lookout for classical texts, it went practically unnoticed, as a piece of
technical literature. A thorough analysis was needed, and it is performed in
this work by Schironi (S.).
The edition is preceded by chapters of great significance. First a brief description of the manuscript (5-7), mainly its palaeography and text layout.
Since the glossary was copied on the verso of a reused papyrus roll, more bibliological description is unnecessary. S. goes on to analyse the contents of the
glossary in terms of dialects and languages involved and authors quoted, in a
choppy but useful chapter (8-12). In the chapter on dating and origin (13-19)S.
provides a well documented discussion on the possible author of the glossary,
presenting the two most plausible hypotheses, a Pergamene (suggested by the
contents of the glossary) and an Alexandrian (suggested by the relations of our
text with Hesychius and Alexandrian glossography). S. convincingly argues for
an Alexandrian origin.
Chapter 5 (20-27) deals with the Near Eastern glosses and the problem
of their acquisition. Here the author shows how closely this study borders
on other disciplines and how necessary collaboration is with specialists from
other fields. One of the questions addressed is the labelling of the languages
themselves: what is the Persian, Babylonian, or Chaldean language? Perhaps
these languages were not even distinguished by the Hellenistic Greeks, including the author of this glossary. S. does not engage much in a discussion concerning what other sources have to say about the definition of these languages,
such as Isidore's De linguis gentium, or the mention of XaX6a[n ypda qta