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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

256                        The Greek Papyri
which no specimens were extant; no one would have appreciated
better than he the irony of such a casual resurrection.
But of the writers of that generation none has emerged more
startlingly or to more effect than Herondas, whose mimes
are vignettes of city life drawn with vigour, realism, and a
marked preference for the seamy side; they unite vivid powers
of characterization with a highly sophisticated attitude and
great technical ability. One of his most successful mimes, The
Schoolmaster, affords a good commentary on the school texts
which are also found among the papyri. A contemporary text-
book which has recently been published (probably one from
which the master dictated to his class) provides interesting
parallels; just as the boy in the mime is made by his father to
spell out a proper name (and makes a hash of it), so the school-
book contains lists of proper names, some of them regular
tongue-twisters. When he is asked to recite a piece of poetry
for the edification of the family, he can't get beyond the first
two words and stammers at that—even his illiterate old grand-
mother, says his mother, could do better than that; sure enough
in the schoolbook are two pieces of Euripides, doubtless to be
copied and learnt by heart. The mime ends with the school-
boy receiving a sound flogging; this is not specified in the book,
but the motto, 'Work hard, boy, or you'll be beaten' copied out
on a piece of papyrus six: times as an imposition, tells its
own tale.
To the grudging work of Egyptian schoolboys we owe not a
few texts, though we may wish that Homer had not been quite
such a staple article of diet. Ostraka were frequently used in
schools—they were the cheapest material, since to the supply
of broken potsherds there was no end—and so, it may well be,
from this source has come the latest ode of Sappho's to see the
light; the uncertain hand and the mistakes in spelling which
indicate that the copyist had only an imperfect grasp of what
he was writing lend colour to this view. The poem is an invita-