The Syllabic Word-Lists in P.Bour. 1 Reconsidered
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The papyrus notebook P.Bour. 1 (Paris, Sorbonne inv. 826) was first fully edited by P. Jouguet and P. Perdrizet in Stud.Pal. 6 (1906) 148–161 and then re-edited as P.Bour. 1 by P. Collart in 1926. It is palaeographically dated to the 4th century AD and preserves eleven almost complete leaves. The hand is characterized by Raffaela Cribiore as a school hand of the "rapid" type. The content of this notebook is of a rather elementary nature, though already beyond the first steps in the process of learning to write and read Greek. It contains four types of exercises, more or less of increasing difficulty, starting with the lists under discussion here.
- (a) alphabetical lists of monosyllables, disyllables, trisyllables, and tetrasyllables (f. I–V)
- (b) five chreiai of Diogenes (f. VI–VII recto)
- (c) 24 gnomai monostichoi in alphabetical order (f. VII verso-IX)
- (d) 11 lines from the first Prologue to Babrius' Fables (f. X)
- subscription (f. XI recto)
Since its publication the schoolbook has attracted much attention, but the lists remained largely uncommented. In the meantime other school word-lists were published and studied, some of them offering interesting parallels. Therefore we are preparing a full re-edition with a line-by-line commentary, based on a new transcription of the lists by Thomas Schmidt during a stay in Paris. In this paper we offer already an "editio minor" containing a new transcription of the lists accompanied by some important findings.
|1||θεος ηγολ̣ [|
|Col. 1||Col. II||Col. III|
›―― , , , , , , ,
|1||ηγο ̣[||small ascending oblique, starting slightly below the line, possibly of λ|
|24||ψ ̣̣||after ψ, part of loop at bottom of line, then tiny traces of an upright (tail of ρ?)|
|25||ω̣̆ [||left loop of ω visible, with rounded mark above (sign of aspiration?)|
|26||Ἀμ ̣[||after μ, small ascending oblique, starting slightly below the line : γ, ι, κ, λ, μ, ν, π, ρ, τ, υ or χ|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|34||] ̣||tiniest speck of ink at bottom|
|40||]ων||no trace of letter before ω|
|44||] τ̣ω̣ρ||before ρ, round trace (probably left loop of ω) preceded by end of horizontal at top (τ?)|
|45||] ο̣ψ ̣||ψ more likely than ρ, possibly followed by one more letter (speck of ink at bottom)|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|70||μαρω̣̣[||part of loop (possibly of ω), but no further trace visible|
|71||μεμν̣̣[||ascending oblique after μ|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|93||] ̣ος||105||Ὑ̣̣̣ μ̣ήν|
|82||]ευς||definitely no trace of letter before ε|
|83||]ε̣υς||horizontal at mid-line, most likely middle stroke of ε|
|85||]α̣̣̣ξ||descending curved stroke, probably end of α|
|86||] ̣̣ευς||tiny speck at bottom of line before ε, probably α, δ, κ or λ|
|90–93||the last four lines of col. I are darkened by some substance and seem to bear ink traces coming from another leaf|
|90||]ος||definitely no trace of letter before ος|
|93||] ̣̣ος||small speck of ink at top before ος, could be almost any letter|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|112||χρυσης||the η is corrected from ο|
|128||γαλα̣̣̣τη̣̣̣[||after γαλ, short descending oblique (tail of α or λ), followed by τ, then speck at bottom and upright with small horizontal at mid-line (η or ν)|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|133||]ος||definitely no trace of letter before ος|
|134||] ̣̣ος||tiny speck at top of line, possibly from bar of τ|
|139||ζω]ϊ̣̣̣λος||Π, before λος speck at top of line, probably right dot of trema|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|165||Μενεσθεύς||177||ο ̣ ̣ ̣[|
|166||νικο ̣̣||tiny speck at bottom after ο|
|168||νηρ ̣̣[||tiny speck at bottom after ρ|
|169||ναυ ̣̣[||small loop at top of line looking like a tiny ο, but definitely not κ; could be the decorated beginning of a letter like τ, λ, δ or χ|
|173||ξαν ̣̣[||curved stroke descending from mid-line, with seemingly beginning of horizontal at mid- line, could be θ or else|
|177||ο ̣ ̣ ̣[||unidentifiable traces (darkened spot), do not seem compatible with οπωρ[|
|Col. I||Col. II|
|189||] ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣||201||Φάληρος|
|180||] ̣̣τωρ||curved stroke before τωρ, as of σ, possibly of κ|
|181||] ̣̣αρος||descending oblique before α, possibly of λ or δ|
|182||] ̣̣ος||single upright before ος, could be ι, ν or η, but μ rather unlikely|
|184||] ̣̣νωρ||tiny speck at top on line before ν|
|186||] ̣̣νελος||small horizontal at mid-line before ν, possibly middle stroke of ε|
|189||] ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣||unidentifiable traces seemingly mixed with ink from another leaf|
|214||] ̣̣αχιδης||left-facing (not closed) loop before α, could be part of ρ|
|217||] ̣̣ιλιδης||small horizontal at mid-line before ι, could be part of ε, τ or σ|
|218||] ̣̣ος||upright with horizontal to the left at mid-line before ος, could be η or θ|
Arrangement of the lists
The word-lists are drawn up in a very systematic way. Within the list part of the notebook there are four sections, one of monosyllables, one of disyllables, one of trisyllables and the beginning of a section of tetrasyllables. In the section of monosyllables one entry is given for each letter of the alphabet; in the other sections there are four examples for each initial letter and these four are grouped and visually separated from the next group. This system of tetrads is very compulsory and exceptions are only allowed in the case of disyllabic and trisyllabic words starting with ψ and ω, undoubtedly so because such words are comparatively rare. It is important to bear this in mind if one wants to find out why some of the words are chosen and how they have to be interpreted.
Because of these tetrads the lists of P.Bour. 1 are, of course, formally connected with the Tachygraphic Commentary, where a group of four words is attached to each main element. One might wonder then whether there is also a link with respect to the contents. Thanks to the recently published word-lists of P.Monts.Roca 1, a kind of ancient index (AD IV) to the Commentary, it is now an easy task to compare the contents of P.Bour. 1 with those of the Commentary. But the result of the comparison is disappointing:
- of the fully preserved words in P.Bour. 1 only four are paralleled in exactly the same form in P.Monts.Roca 1: ὕπνος, ῞Ηφαιστος, ἥλιος and Μαρσύας.
- of the fully preserved words in the Bouriant papyrus five are paralleled in an inflected form in P.Monts.Roca 1: πούς, τις, ἥρως, ψῆφος and τελαμών.
- of the words of which a substantial part is preserved in P.Bour. 1 eight are very likely paralleled in P.Monts.Roca 1: δένδρον, ῾Ερμῆς, ξένος, Περσεύς, Ζάκυνθος, Ζέφυρος, ῞Ομηρος and Σκάμανδρος.
Thus, of the 218 words of P.Bour. 1 not even 10 percent correspond, completely or at least partially, with one of the about 2368 entries of the Montserrat word-list. Eventually, the tetrad system seems to be no more than an organizational tool and mnemonic device, which P.Bour. 1 and the Commentary happen to have in common. Some words occurring in both P.Bour. 1 and the Commentary, such as Marsyas, do not necessarily point to any specific connection between these texts but may be interpreted as testifying to the popularity of this mythological figure, probably because of his exemplary punishment.
An exercise in orthography and pronunciation?
Although writing and reading were generally two distinct phases in ancient school practice, one of the important functions of copying this notebook must have been learning to write as a preparation to read texts. Our student has been particularly successful in writing correctly and especially the word-lists have been executed with much attention to orthography, if one considers the gap which existed between the spoken and the written literary language: νιλευς, σιλευς, φρικως, ιφιδος, κερβελος, χλεμυλος, βακχυλλιδης are the only slips of the pen. Yet many of these names were unusual and those responsible for making up these lists seem to have deliberately inserted words with difficult spelling. At the same time the selection of the words was very probably also determined by difficulty of pronunciation. The importance of training pronunciation skills in school education is attested by Quintilian 1.1.37 and by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 5.8.48–49). But which combinations of sounds were judged to be difficult to pronounce? Rare or artificial words, which school children had to learn by heart, such as κναξζβίχ and ζβυχθηδόν, show that a complex succession of consonants was generally agreed to be problematic. Therefore the frequent occurrence of the double and aspirated consonants ζ, ξ, ψ, φ, χ and θ in several combinations cannot be accidental: Θρᾶξ, Ζῆθος, Ξέρξης, Ξοῦθος, Ξάνθος, Φρίξος, Φαίαξ, Χάροψ, Ζάκυνθος, Ζεύξιππος, Ζέφυρος, Θέρσανδρος, Ξέρξιππος, Ξίσουθρος, Ῥαβδοῦχος, Σθένελος and Βακχυλίδης all involve more than one of these combined letters or other harsh collisions of consonants.
Another problematic sound was the rho, which was often confounded with lambda, and lallation or lambdacism, called τραυλότης by the Greeks, was a frequent speech defect: Demosthenes, Alcibiades and Aristotle were among those known to have been plagued by this defect and it was often imputed to faulty education. A whole series of names in our lists combine the letters λ and ρ separated by only a few letters, such as Βέλλερος, Ἡρακλῆς, Λέανδρος, Πάτροκλος, Πολύκτωρ, Ῥωμύλος, Φέρεκλος, Φάληρος, Χαρικλῆς, Χρεμύλος. For the last name the orthographic error Χλεμυλος in the papyrus, just as Κερβελος on the preceding folio, demonstrates that in the fourth century this pronunciation obstacle was not less common. So we would argue that the criterion of pronunciation training did not only influence the selection of monosyllables in school word-lists, as has already been seen by other scholars, but that of all the syllabic word-lists, at least in this papyrus. However, in these lists the most important criterion was certainly the meaning of each word in Greek literature.
It is possible to discern some patterns in the word choice. The bulk of the words can and very likely must be interpreted as Greek proper names that were important for reading the major literary works: these obviously include first of all the names of famous authors (Homer, Menander, Lysias, Bacchylides), then the names from mythology (heroes from the Trojan and the Theban cycles, Argonauts, gods), or from history (Xerxes; the Sages Thales, Solon and Bias) figuring in these works. As could be expected, Homeric names are most frequent, but we want to focus here on the less evident connection with Attic comedy.
It has been recognized before, by Colin Austin and by Alain Blanchard, that there are several characters from Menander's comedies in our lists, namely Λάχης, Σίκων, Γοργίας, Δημέας, Κλεινίας and Μοσχίων. Moreover,῞Ηρως (the play in which the characters Laches and Gorgias had a part) is probably listed as the title of a comedy by Menander, whose name is also mentioned (Μένανδρος). Λυσίας, the young man from the Theophoroumene, a play already represented in the lists by the character of Kleinias, can be added to this survey. Blanchard argued that the names Sikon, Gorgias, Demeas and Moschion are taken from the pieces preserved in the Bodmer papyrus (Samia, Dyskolos, Aspis)and ended up in our lists through a school word-list of the Chester Beatty Library, with which the lists of P.Bour. 1 have many words in common. This very specific connection cannot be proved, but the relation with the three comedies is indisputable.
But there is even more comedy in the lists than the so far recognized names related to Menandrian comedy. This is obvious in case of the name Χρεμύλος: nearly all the instances of this rare name in Greek literature are related to Aristophanes' Ploutos, where Chremylos is the main character. Also, given the occurrence of Xanthias in the similar and perhaps even cognate Chester Beatty word-list, we may restore Ξανθ̣̣̣[ίας in line 173 instead of the Ξανθ̣̣̣[ίππη of previous editors. This Xanthias is in Greek literature chiefly known as a slave-name used by comic poets and particularly by Aristophanes in his Frogs and Wasps.
Comedy, then, is unmistakably present in the lists of P.Bour. 1 and this may shed light on the presence of some rather unexpected words, such as βάτραχος and ῥαβδοῦχος. Theoretically Βάτραχος could be the common noun "frog" as well as the rare personal name Batrachos. On the other hand βάτραχος has a prominent place as a dramatic character in some literary works, such as the Batrachomyomachia, some Aesopic fables, and in particular the Batrachoi-comedies. In line 185 the only possible restoration is the common noun ῥαβ]δοῦχος, which is amply attested in historiography and which in ancient poetry occurs in plural in Aristophanes' Peace and as the title of a now lost play Rhabdouchoi by Plato Comicus. Especially the occurrence as a title is interesting, since it is the only preserved instance where Rhabdouchos appears as a kind of name. Thus both Βάτραχος and Ῥαβδοῦχος can be interpreted in connection with comedy. Through this link with comedy, the words become "names" instead of common nouns and are less odd in a context of names from literature.
Admittedly, the comedy title Rhabdouchoi is plural, whereas the papyrus undoubtedly had the singular rhabdouchos. But both Batrachos and Rhabdouchos are part of tetrads for which it must have been difficult to find enough words meeting not only the formal conditions of the arrangement but also the demands or preferences concerning the type of words and their occurrence as names in literature. Titles like Rhabdouchoi and Batrachoi, then, were readily at hand, e.g. in lists of comic authors and their plays. And given the systematic nature of the word-lists in P.Bour. 1, it is not inconceivable that the plurals were adapted in order to fit in a context of singulars.
In the case of Batrachos, two other words of the tetrad can contribute to the argument: Βούσιρι[ς and Βέλλερ[ος. Bousiris has no comic flavour in itself, since it is, among other things, the title of a eulogy by Isocrates and a satyr play by Euripides. But at the same time it is the title of several comedies (by Epicharmus, Cratinus, Antiphanes, Ephippus and Mnesimachus). Belleros, then, is attested only 17 times in the TLG, mostly in scholia and lexica as the name of the man murdered by Bellerophontes. But Belleros is also mentioned as entry in the comic lexicon of P.Oxy. XV 1801r (AD I), where Belleros seems to be equated with Bellerophontes himself, an identification which found its way as an alternative explanation in the lexicon of Hesychius. Thus three out of the four words of the tetrad are linked in one way or another with comedy, whereas the fourth one, Biênôr, is clearly Homeric. It is tempting, then, to assume that a comic source was used to complete the tetrad.
In this context we just want to touch upon one more word. The third word of the trisyllables starting with γ has puzzled previous editors. So far no one was able to suggest a reading that made any sense. But it is quite obvious that we must read γαλα̣̣̣τη̣̣̣[, which can reasonably be completed to Γαλά̣̣̣τη̣̣̣[ς. This reading is supported by the presence of the same word in the Chester Beatty word-list (Γαλάτ̣̣̣[ης).
Theoretically Galates can be interpreted in different ways: as the ethnic "Galatian," as an ordinary personal name or as the name of the legendary founder of the Galatians.
Starting from the fourth/third century BC the name Galates, and especially the plural Galatai, is frequently mentioned in prose. But most significantly Γαλάτης is also the title of a comedy by Posidippus and Γαλάται of comic plays by Apollodorus Carystius or Gelous and by Sopater.
To sum up, it may be stated 1) that some words in P.Bour. 1 that at first sight do not seem to fit in the general scheme can be explained as comedy titles; and 2) that more generally characters from comedy do claim their place in Greek elementary education, even though they are not always to the same extent cultural symbols, representative of the glorious Greek past, as are their counterparts from mythology and historiography. In the 3rd century BC school manual P.Guéraud-Jouguet substantial extracts from Attic Comedy can be found, just as in some later school texts, but in our schoolbook the literary introduction in this genre seems to have shrunken to the Menandrian sententiae of which a sample is preserved in the Bouriant papyrus. Nevertheless, personal names from Comedy seem to have retained their place in the school word-lists, which is in line with their characteristic conservatism.
One can wonder from which concrete sources the author of the list selected these words. Since many of the names must have been part of the standard cultural baggage of a literary educated Greek, some of them might have crossed the mind of our author spontaneously. But drawing up a list of 218 words in such a systematic way is a difficult task and can hardly be done without consulting some sources. One way to find fitting names is struggling through literary texts, taking notes, shifting and organizing the material. But the task becomes much easier, if one makes use of already existing "short-cuts" to this literature, such as summaries (hypotheseis) and lists of characters (preceding the proper text), mythographic catalogues, lists of authors and their works, lexica, etc.
P.Bodm. 4 (AD III–IV) and P.Cair. inv. 43227 (AD V) prove that lists of comic characters were accessible in the period of P.Bour. 1. And, as suggested above, lists of comic authors and their plays may have been used in completing some difficult tetrads. Likewise in the case of the name Ψαῦμις: this name is not found in any other ancient source than in Pindar's Olympian Odes 4 and 5, which were dedicated to Psaumis, and in the related scholia. Only one exception: Psaumis also appears in the syllabic name-lists on O.Crum 525 (AD IV–V), of which the word choice shows a more than accidental similarity to that of P.Bour. 1. That there was a kind of tradition within the genre of the school word-lists has already been recognized. But one can wonder how the name Psaumis originally ended up in the school word-lists. There is no need to think that the author of the list, having trouble in finding a disyllabic name starting with ψ, had to read Pindar's Odes in order to meet Psaumis. Since Psaumis is the subject of the Odes, he may have easily found the name through a hypothesis or a table of contents.
It must also have been rather difficult to find satisfying names for the tetrad of trisyllables starting with υ. The first two words Ὑριεύς and Ὑπέρης are mythological names of minor importance. Hyrieus is the son of Poseidon and Alkyone (cf. Apollod. 3.111, Hellanic. FGrHist 4 F 19a), founder of the Boeotian town Hyria and "father" of Orion, who is also mentioned in the lists. According to Eustathius (comm. Hom., Il. 1.433.27–28) Hyperes is also a son of Poseidon and Alkyone. Next comes ὑθαλος, which – as such – is not attested in any ancient source, followed by ὕελλος, a spelling variant of ἡ ὕελος or ὕαλος ("some kind of crystalline stone, glass"),which is definitely not a name. Since ὕελλος (with double lambda) appears in Georgius Choeroboscus (Περὶ πνευμάτων, Valckenaer p. 210) next to ὕθλος ("idle talk, nonsense") in a rule concerning the aspiration of words starting with υ, one might wonder whether the author of our list drew the two words from a similar, rather learned source and then expanded ὕθλος into ὑθαλος by a kind of anaptyxis. Apparently, the words were just chosen to make the tetrad complete, without caring about their meaning.
Our findings, then, show that the composition of the syllabic word-lists of P.Bour. 1, has not just been a matter of throwing together more than 200 words that accidentally crossed the mind. The author clearly had some preferences, some requirements, which he could not always meet without resorting to sources which explained and gave easy access to the literary texts (grammatical texts in the broader sense). Most listed words were propedeutic to correctly reading – and thus pronouncing, since in ancient practice reading implied reading aloud – classical Greek literature, especially but not exclusively the Homeric poems. The composer of the lists did not eschew rare or difficult words, either because their meaning or grammatical features or else their orthography or pronunciation was problematic. On the contrary, in keeping with the precept of Quintilian 1.1.34–35, he deliberately inserted glosses that would prove to be useful for more advanced instruction. Thus the lists are part of a long and gradual process of creating lists and of selecting and organizing highlights and symbols from the admired Greek culture of the past. It is our conviction that our lists have made use of this material, and that they aimed, in their turn, at making the students of fourth century Egypt aware of those symbols, however quick and superficial this acquaintance may have been.
LDAB 2744, TM 61595, MP³ 2643, CPP 0162. Some related bibliography: C. Austin, Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta in Papyris Reperta (Berlin 1973) 107; J. Bingen, "L'exercice scolaire PUG II 53," CdÉ 57 (1982) 107–110; A. Blanchard, "Sur le milieu d'origine du papyrus Bodmer de Ménandre. L'apport du P.Chester Beatty scolaire et du P.Bouriant," CdÉ 66 (1991) 211–220; R. Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt. Am.Stud.Pap. 36 (Atlanta 1996) n. 393; ead., Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton 2001); T. Morgan, Literate Education in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (Cambridge 1998). Photographs are available at:
Especially: O. Guéraud and P. Jouguet, Un livre d'écolier du IIIe siècle avant J.-C. (Cairo 1938); P.Genova II 53; W. Clarysse and A. Wouters, "A Schoolboy's Exercise in the Chester Beatty Library," AncSoc 1 (1970) 201–235; O.Crum 525 = M. Huys and Th. Schmidt, "The Syllabic Name-Lists on O.Crum 525 (UC inv. 32222). Re-edition and Commentary," ZPE 134 (2001) 145–162; P.Bingen 17.
Alcibiades is caricatured in Ar.,Vesp., 45 by pronouncing ὁλᾷς; Θέωλος τὴν κεφαλὴν κόλακος ἔχει. For other ancient testimonies on this pronunciation defect, see W.B. Stanford, The Sound of Greek: Studies in the Greek Theory and Practice of Euphony(Berkeley 1967) 141, 152 n. 10–18.
Δάρδα]ν̣ος (133) and Ναύκ[ληρος (169) have also been explained as titles of Menandrean comedies, but these readings should be rejected: in Δάρδα]ν̣ος: the ν is actually totally invisible and moreover space is lacking for the restoration of 6 letters; for Ναύκ[ληρος: the traces following Ναυ cannot be read as κ.
Cf. P.Oxy. XXXIII 2659 (list of comic plays arranged by author, AD II), P.Oxy. XXVII 2462 (beginning of an alphabetically arranged list of plays by Menander, AD II) and P.Oxy. XXXV 2739 (list of plays by Cratinus, AD II).
Later school papyri with larger, non gnomic comic extracts are rather rare, but see P.IFAO inv. 89B, a fragment from Menander's Misoumenos, edited by B. Boyaval, "Le prologue du Misoumenos de Ménandre et quelques autres papyrus grecs inédits de l'Institut français d'Archéologie orientale du Caire," ZPE 6 (1970) 1–5 (3rd century AD) (LDAB 2657, Cribiore 290).