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2005 Summer Reading
The Burial at Thebes

by Prof. Michael Arnush, Classics

Most of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Antigone date from the middle of the 10th century to the early Renaissance - specifically, the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Indeed, Aldus Manutius, a renowned typographer and printer of Greek texts in the early Renaissance, printed the first handheld, "paperback" edition in Venice in 1502 (click here for four images of a copy in Brigham Young University's library; 1502 was the same year Aldus published a now-famous exquisite edition of Dante's L'Inferno, Il Purgatorio, and Il Paradiso, pictured here). Our own Scribner Library Special Collections has on loan from Prof. David Porter, president emeritus, a copy of an edition in Greek and Latin published by another noteworthy printer, Paulus Stephanus, in Geneva in 1602 (see pictured here the title page and the opening of the Antigone). Archaeological excavations in Egypt and Italy have uncovered caches of papyrus fragments of Greek and Latin literature dating to over 1000-2000 years earlier. The example below comes from the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (map) and dates to the 2nd century CE. Above the image of the scrap of papyrus - which gives you some sense of how fragmentary our early evidence sometimes is for Greek literature - is a transcription of five lines of Greek from the exchange between Creon and the Guard, and Heaney's translation of the same (which appears at the top of page 20 of your copy). In the transcription, those Greek letters within the brackets [ ] do not appear on the papyrus fragment, and those letters outside the brackets are preserved. Can you identify the letters on the papyrus?

Papyrus fragment of Sophocles Antigone lines 242-246 (transcription begins with line 241)

Creon [εὐ̂ γε στοχάζει κἀποφάργνυσαι κύκλῳ]
[τὸ πρα̂γμα: δηλοι̂ς δ' ὥ]ς τι ση[μ]αινω̂ν νέο[ν.]
Why do you need such fences and defences? / Your news is hardly all that desperate
Guard [τὰ δεινὰ γάρ τοι προστί]θησ' ὄκνον πολ[ύν.] Desperate enough to panic me, your honour.
Creon [οὔκουν ἐρει̂ς ποτ', εἰ̂τ'] ἀπαλλαχθεὶς ἄπε[ι]; Then get it out, man, as you say yourself, / and get it over
Guard [καὶ δὴ λέγω σοι. τὸν νεκ]ρόν τ[ι]ς ἀρτίω[ς]
[θάψας βέβηκε κἀπὶ χρωτ]ὶ διψίαν.
Well, here's what it is. The corpse. Somebody has as good as / buried it. Somebody's after attending to it right. Casting the / earth on it and all the rest.
Papyrus fragment
Image courtesy Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University