A fragment of Archilochus

I visited the Ashmolean museum in Oxford today. They’ve just revamped their Greek section. I will probably comment on that later but in another part of the building they have a small display on writing. Exhibited is a papyrus with a fragment of Archilochus. The point of showing it was show how multi-spectral imaging could enable papyri to be read. The following is a photograph before and after the imaging. The actual papyrus which was also on display looked a lot clearer than the before photograph. I have to admit I stared at the image a long time and could only make out one or two words. I suppose there must be a special skill in reading papyri.


The flowing translation and text is taken from

‘One doesn’t have to call it weakness and cowardice, having to retreat, if it’s under the compulsion of a god: no, we turned our backs to flee quickly: there exists a proper time for flight. Even once Telephus from Arcadia put to flight the great army of Argives, and they fled–indeed, so greatly was the fate of the gods routing them–powerful spear-men though they were. The fair-flowing river Kaikos and the plain of Mysia were stuffed with corpses as they fell. And being slain at the hands of the relentless man (Telephus), the well-greaved Achaeans turned-off with headlong speed to the shore of the much-resounding sea. Gladly did the sons of the immortals and brothers, whom Agamemnon was leading to holy Ilium to wage war, embark on their swift ships. On that occasion, because they had lost their way, they arrived at that shore. They set upon the lovely city of Teuthras, and there, snorting fury along with their horses, came in distress of spirit. For they thought they were attacking the high-gated city of Troy, but in fact they had their feet on wheat-bearing Mysia. And Heracles encountered them (the Argives), as he shouted to his brave-hearted son of Telephus, fierce and pitiless in cruel battle, who, inciting unfortunate flight in the Danaans, strove along on that occasion to gratify his father.’

]….[ εἰδὲ].[….].[.]..θεου̂ κρατερη̂[ς ὑπ’ἀνάγκης
οὐ χρη̂] ἀ̣ν[α]λ[κείη]ν και κακότητα λέγει[ν· π]ήμ[α]τ’ εὖ [εἵμ]εθα δ[ῆι]α φυγεῖν· φεύγ[ειν δέ τις ὥρη·
καί̣ ποτ[ε μ]ου̂νος ἐ̣ὼν Τήλεφος ’Αρ̣ κα[σίδης (5) ’Αργείων ἐφόβησε πολὺν στρατ[όν,] ο[ἱ δὲ φέβοντο
ά̣̓λκιμ[οι,]ἠ̣̂τόσαδὴμοιρ̂ αθεω̂νἐ̣φόβει, αἰχμηταί̣ περ ἐόντε[ς.] ἐϋρρείτης δὲ Κ[άϊκος
π]ιπτό̣ντων νεκύων στείνετο καὶ [πεδίον
Μ̣ύσιον, οἱ̣ δ’ ἐπὶ θιν̣̂α πολυφλοισβοι[ο θαλάσσης (10)
χέρσ’] ὑ̣π’ ἀμειλίκτου φωτὸς ἐναιρό[μενοι προ]τροπάδην ἀπέ̣κλινον ἐϋκνήμ[ιδες ’Αχαιοί·
ἀ]ςπάσιοι δ’ ἐς νέας ὠ[κ]υπόρ[ο]υς [ἐσέβαν παι̂δές τ’ ἀ̣θανάτων καὶ̣ ἀδελφεοί̣, [οὓς ’Αγαμέμνων
Ἴ̣λιον εἰς ἱερὴν ἠ̂γε μαχησομένο[υς· (15) ο]ἱ̣ δὲ τότε βλαφθέντες ὁδοῦ παρὰ θ[ι̂ν’ ἀφίκοντο·
Τε]ύθραντος δ’ ἐ̣ρατὴν πρὸς πόλιν [ἐ]ξ[έπεσον· ἔ]νθα [μ]έν̣ ος πνείοντες ὁμως αὐτο[ί τε καὶ ἵπποι
ἀ]φρ[αδί]ηι μεγάλως θυμὸν ἀκηχέ[̣ δατο·
φ]ά̣ντο γὰρ ὑψίπυλον Τρώων πόλιν εἰσ[ἀναβαίνειν (20)
αἶ]ψα· μ[ά]την δ’ἐπάτεον Μυσίδα πυροφόρο[ν. ̔Ηρακλ]έ̣ης δ’ ἤ̣ντησ[ε] βοω̂ν ταλ[α]κάρδιον [υἱόν,
οὐ̂]ρον ἀ̣μ[εί]λικ[τον] δηίω̈ ι ἐν [πολ]έ̣μ[ωι Τ]ήλεφον ὃς Δ̣αναοι̂σι κακὴν [τ]ό[τε φύζαν ἐνόρσας
ἤ]ρειδε [πρό]μαχος, πατρὶ χαριζό̣μ[ενος (25) …]………[.]…..[
…].[.]…[……]..[ . . . ] . . . . [ . . . . . . ] .

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3 Responses to A fragment of Archilochus

  1. This newer Archilochus poem is really interesting and was groundbreaking for a few reasons. My friend and I wrote a piece about it in 2006.

    Here’s a link if you’re interested (rather than bore you with the details!)



    • platosparks says:

      Many thanks. This will require some concentrated reading which I shall certainly do. One of the few words I could pick out when looking at the enhanced copy of the papyrus was πολυθλοισβοιο which made me think of Homer.j


  2. Pingback: Rivers stuffed with corpses | platosparks

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