Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Oldest Text of the Odessey?

News reports (here, and here) report the discovery of a third century A.D. clay tablet with lines from Homer's Odessey found near the temple of Zeus at Olympia. Some of the reports claim that this is the oldest copy of the Odessey ever found. The claim, however, is missing two words: in Greece. Some of the news reports included the two words, others did not. The two words are significant. Back in 1988 (thirty years ago) Orsolina Montevecchi listed 93 copies of the Odessey that are older (some five-hundred years older). Those copies, however, were found in Egypt.

It is also worth noting that the date of the new manuscript from Greece is about a millennium after the typical date for Homer. This serves as a reminder that there is often a large gap between when a literary text is written and the date of the earliest manuscript.

So cheers to the archaeologists and the Greeks for this new discovery. And a groan for the careless editor who left out two important words. Small details can make big differences.