ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 45 (2008) 41-44
Homer on a Puzzling Ostrakon
Raffaella Cribiore New York University
O.Col. inv. 949, which comes from Upper Egypt and dates to the sixth
century AD, was written in different styles by an apprentice scribe.
It contains a paraphrase of Iliad 3.6 and a formulaic expression that
occurs in Iliad 3.171 and 228.
This ostrakon, purchased by Columbia University in 1958, comes from
Naville's dump at Dayr el-Bahri, which H.E. Winlock excavated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1926-1928.1 A photograph of this piece that was
taken by H. Burton (M10C 15) before a significant cache of ostraka from this
site left Egypt confirms its provenance.2 This is the only Greek text that came
with the 1,375 Coptic ostraka of the Columbia acquisition, most of which have
the same provenance. The ostrakon is on grey limestone, is complete, and preserves four lines of writing in Greek. The text starts with a cross and is placed
on the ostrakon so that there are ample margins. The spaces at the bottom and
right, which are particularly large, are unwritten. The first two lines contain a
paraphrase of the second half of Homer, Iliad 3.61 and the last two lines preserve a formulaic expression from Iliad 3.171 and 228 that refers to Helen.
1 See columbia.apis.949 (acc. 64.11.280) with the image. On the temple and monastery, see E. Naville, The Temple of Deir el Bahari: Its Plan, Its Founders, and Its First
Explorers (London 1894); W. Godlewski, Le monastere de St. Phoibammon (Warsaw
1986). On Dayr el-Bahri in Late Antiquity, cf. A. Lajtar, Deir el-Bahari in the Hellenistic
and Roman Periods: A Study of an Egyptian Temple Based on Greek Sources (Warsaw
2 On the archaeological context and vicissitudes of this and other ostraka belonging
to the same group, see E.R. O'Connell, "Ostraca from Western Thebes: Provenance
and History of the Collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Columbia
University" BASP 43 (2006) 113-137.