ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 46 (2009) 275-279
A.K. Bowman, R.A. Coles, N. Gonis, D. Obbink, and P.J. Parsons
(eds.), Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts. Graeco-Roman Memoirs
93. London: Egypt Exploration Society; 2007. xiv + 407 pages + 30
plates. ISBN 0-85698-177-X.
For over a century now new volumes of Oxyrhynchus papyri have been
adding further pieces to the puzzle of Graeco-Roman and Late Antique Egypt
and steadily expanding our most detailed database of papyri from a single site.
Studies continue to be written on many aspects of these papyri, from small articles with corrections or new readings to monographs on larger issues.' What
has been lacking, however, is an up-to-date survey of the main scholarship on
all this material. This arduous task has now been accomplished in the form of
Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts.2
The volume under review goes back to a symposium held under the same
title at Oxford and London in 1998 on the occasion of the centenary of the publication of the first volume of Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Most of the lectures given
on that occasion appear as articles in the present volume. But the editors have
done much more than just collect essays by an impressive number of leading
scholars in papyrology and other fields to summarize the importance of these
papyri. Firstly, they have attempted to put the texts into their physical context
by asking specialists to write about the excavations, both past and present, and
the material remains of the site (hence the title). Secondly, they reprint important articles by WM.F. Petrie and E.G. Turner, which serve as convenient starting points for the articles that follow. Thirdly, this volume contains a significant
amount of archival material, such as hitherto unpublished papers by Grenfell
and Hunt and photographs. These features make this book a survey as well as
a document of more than a century of Oxyrhynchus studies.
The twenty-seven contributions are divided into three very broad categories. A convenient introduction to the first part, on the excavations at
Oxyrhynchus, and basically to the whole book, is the first chapter by Revel
Coles ("Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts"). He introduces a wide range of
topics, such as what the site looks like today, the history of the excavations,
what we can learn about the ancient city from the excavations, and how we
can connect the material remains to topographical references in the papyri.
1 See, most recently, A. Luijendijk, Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the
Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Cambridge, MA, 2008).
2 A popularizing version was published in the same year by one of the editors, P.J.
Parsons, as City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt (London 2007).