Sappho, papyrology and the media

Roberta Mazza

So-called Sappho from Pompeii (Naples, MANN 9084) From Wikicommons So-called Sappho from Pompeii (Naples, MANN 9084)
From Wikicommons

At the end of last month we read in newspapers and on the web that previously unknown poems of Sappho have been discovered on a fragmentary papyrus from Egypt, now owned by a private collector in London. The poems will be published by Dirk Obbink, papyrologist of Christ Church, Oxford in a forthcoming issue of Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (189 2014). The news went viral (obviously on a Classics-nerds-scale, which is nothing compared to kittens-doing-stuff on YouTube) and a debate has started not only on the poems as texts, but also and maybe foremost on the papyrus itself as an archaeological object.

The basic facts so far:

29 January, the media announce the discovery worldwide, often with mention of and/or link to Dirk Obbink’s preliminary version of the forthcoming article freely available at an institutional address (e.g. BBC News)…

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