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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Greek Papyri                         251
illuminated papyri, such as that of the jockeys of Antinoe,1 or
of a few superb examples of calligraphy); though they have
added a new chapter to the history of Greek palaeography, it
is their contents that is our main concern. This legacy is a novel
one in that the information we derive from the papyri is often
not merely new but often of a new kind; in what this novelty
consists it is the purpose of this essay to discuss.
By way of introduction a little may be said of the material*
Centuries before Alexander's conquest had made the Greeks the
masters of the country, Egypt had manufactured papyrus out
of the pith of the rnarsh plant of that name which once grew
plentifully in the Delta swamps, and the Egyptians by their
carefully guarded processes (at no time in the ancient world
was the preparation of papyrus for writing purposes car-
ried on outside Egypt) had made of it the finest writing
material known. Throughout the classical age of Greece it was
commonly used; indeed, without such a relatively cheap and
convenient material literature and the sciences could scarcely
have developed as they did, or at least their diffusion and sur-
vival would have been rendered much more difficult. Egypt
supplied the whole Roman Empire, from Hadrian's Wall
to the Euphrates and from the Danube to the First Cataract,
and papyrus was used as naturally by Irenaeus in Gaul as by
Origen in Alexandria. Its last recorded use is in the Chancery
of Pope Victor II in 1057, but whether the papyrus was
Egyptian and, if so, whether it was recently imported, we
do not know. Just as papyrus was of immense service in the
creation and transmission of classical culture, so in the kst
hundred years it has been the means of renewing and in-
creasing the legacy of Greece and Rome. The account is not
yet closed; every year brings with it the publication of new
texts, and their range is no less surprising than their number.
Until the Egyptian discoveries our knowledge of this material,
1 See S. J. G^siorowskij Journal of Egyptian Archaeology