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Literature in Fragments: Lost Greek Works at Michigan

Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754 Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754
Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754
This exhibit presents a selection of such fragmentary literary texts from the University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection. Although literary papyri represent a small fraction of surviving papyrus texts, they nonetheless enable scholars both to improve their readings of known literary texts and to illuminate the rich diversity of ancient Greek literature, the overwhelming majority of which has been lost to time.

The Greek literature that survives complete in the present day largely represents the texts that were the most popular in antiquity, works like Homer’s Iliad and Euripides’ Medea. These texts were repeatedly copied throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages, ensuring their continued transmission. Literary texts on papyri, however, provide a rare opportunity to glimpse fragments of ancient literature in their original form and to discover works that were read in antiquity but did not otherwise survive into the medieval and modern periods. This includes lesser-known works by such famous authors as Aristophanes and the Greek tragedians, as well as fragments of texts whose authors remain unknown.

The exhibit was curated by Allison Thorsen, UMSI student, and can be viewed during regular hours of the Special Collections Research Center:
https://www.lib.umich.edu/special-collections-research-center
Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754 Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754
Detail of Alcidamas’ On Homer, P. Mich. inv. 2754
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