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Papyri and LAtin Texts: INsights and Updated Methodologies. Towards a philological, literary, and historical approach to Latin papyri

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - PLATINUM (Papyri and LAtin Texts: INsights and Updated Methodologies.Towards a philological, literary, and historical approach to Latin papyri)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The project PLATINUM aims to offer a new, enhanced, multidisciplinary approach to Latin texts on papyrus in a bid to examine their potential and provide new insights into their philological, linguistic, literary, historical (both economic and social) and cultural contribution and value, so as to: (1) supply the scholarly community with an updated corpus and philological reference tool (taking the form of both a paper publication and an online platform); (2) afford a new understanding of the textual transmission of Latin classics and seek to assess their impact in various parts of the Roman Empire; (3) make a significant contribution to our knowledge of practices used for learning Latin and for education in the language, especially in the provinces of the Late Antique Roman Empire; (4) produce new research results with regard to linguistic aspects of diachronically marked Latin, particularly in bilingual (or even trilingual) contexts; and (5) promote knowledge of Roman 'micro-history' (and so of history in general) and culture.
Scrutinizing Latin texts on papyrus from several points of view, the focus is on their substantial contribution to our knowledge of innovations in ancient Roman literature, language, history, and society, especially in the multilingual and multicultural contexts of the Eastern part of the Empire between the 1st century B.C. and 8th century A.D.
Coming mainly from Egypt and other Roman provinces (as well as Herculaneum and Ravenna), Latin papyri deserve more scholarly attention not only from papyrologists and paleographers, but also from scholars of Latin language, as well as intellectual and cultural historians of Rome. Latin papyri, tablets, and ostraka (potsherds) are constantly increasing in number through archaeological discoveries. Because they are so rare, they are even more valuable than the Greek papyri, which have garnered much attention.
The main aim is to reconstruct the circulation of Latin language and literature and its reflection of Roman society and culture through Latin texts on papyrus. From this perspective, the results will flow in different directions:
o Eastern products will shed light on the circulation of the Latin language, literature and culture in the Eastern half of the Empire. In this way, Latin texts on papyrus coming from the East will make a particularly significant contribution to the reconstruction of ancient education, as many of them come from a pedagogical environment, linked to the teaching of the Latin language and/or law. The investigation will be extended to comparisons between their content and what is known from other sources, such as Latin (and Greek) grammarians, most of whom operated in the Eastern Roman Empire;
o Manuscripts from the Western Roman Empire, such as Latin papyri from Herculaneum, will enrich our knowledge of Roman 'libraries'.
o Documentary texts from both the West (mainly Ravenna and Northern Italy) and the East will offer new insights into the Roman economy and Roman society, culture and history and the interaction among populations.
The Latin papyri have hitherto represented a border-line field of study that has not been fully exploited either by papyrologists or by scholars of Latin literature. Moreover, the obsolete bibliography and the considerable number of unpublished texts make the study of Latin papyri (and bilingual Latin-Greek, Latin-Coptic texts) - whether literary (e.g. Cicero, Vergil, law), paraliterary (grammar, medicine, magic), or documentary (letters, official registers, receipts) - a pioneering and challenging task.
A more thorough study is activating an in-depth reflection on Ancient multilingualism and multiculturalism. It is also revealing the untapped potential of Latin texts on papyrus for renewing our knowledge of the circulation and reception of Latin language and education, as a cultural engine in Mediterranean societies.
The first phase of PLATINUM's work was mainly focussed on a preliminary census of Latin texts on papyrus, in order to assemble, update and publish critical editions towards a new and more accurate corpus and an easily accessible online platform.
It is necessary to underline that several PLATINUM’s activities could not be foreseen, dealing with unpublished (or superficially edited) texts and given the nature itself of discoveries. The discovery of important Latin texts on papyrus has implied to go deeper in some unforeseen fields. Three examples among PLATINUM’s achievements will clarify this statement: 1. first, the discovery of the only-known Latino-Arabic papyrus, an unicum in the Eastern and Western cultural panorama which will stimulate further researches; 2. second, a new edition of P.Tebt. II 686, maybe a new fragment of Cicero’s de re publica (unknown to the manuscript tradition); 3. third, the discovery of Seneca the Elder’s Historiae ab initio bellorum civilium in a Latin roll from Herculanum.
PLATINUM’s team is actively working towards editiones principes or new editions of already published Latin papyri, in order to highlight their importance in the Latin literary and historical panorama and to collect all of them in PLATINUM’s corpus.
Many occasions of academic dissemination of PLATINUM’s results have been found, and a series of seminars and important colloquia have been organized within PLATINUM’s activities; some monographs and many articles let PLATINUM’s research-team widespread its work. Non-academic audience has been involved, as well: PLATINUM actually aims to stimulate the reflection on an actual theme as multilingualism and multiculturalism, projecting it in the Roman world. Further details can be found on:
PLATINUM's corpus will include more than three times as many texts as Robert Cavenaile’s Corpus papyrorum Latinarum (1958) does: the new census of Latin texts on papyrus has given unattended results in terms of quantity and textual typologies. Many Latin texts on papyrus stand still unpublished in worldwide collections, and PLATINUM’s team is making a recognition of them in order to publish them and highlight their importance for the history of culture and for writing new chapters in the literary and cultural history of Rome.
For the very first time in the history of Classics, a research-team is focussing on Latin texts on papyrus, is exploring their untapped potential, and is showing the scientific community how fertile and promising this field of research is.
Benefits from this research will not only come to Ancient Historians and Classical Philologists, Literates and Linguists - who will have an updated instrument for their further researches - but also to Historians of Culture, as these documents are a touchable expression of cultural interactions in a multilingual and multicultural Empire between the 1st century B.C. and 8th century A.D. .