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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

258                        The Greek Papyri
with the added explanation that the play was a hit against
Pericles; it was a parody of the Trojan War with Dionysus
playing the part of Paris and included a Falstaffian scene in
which Dionysus, hearing of the approach of the Greeks, hides
Helen in a basket and metamorphoses himself into a ram. It is
not that the drama has been particularly favoured; there is
scarcely a branch of Greek literature that has not gained similar
unexpected additions. At times, indeed, the scraps are so small
that they merely tantalize; such for example are the few csilly-
boi' or tags which were attached to the top of the roll as titles.
One of these bears the complacent inscription 'The Complete
Works of Pindar', another 'The Female Mimes of Sophron'.
Yet even these are an assurance that the books from which they
have strayed still circulated in Roman Egypt and therefore may
still have left some disiecta membra in the sand.
The art or science of textual criticism is another study that
has benefited from the discoveries of papyri;1 not far short of
half the literary texts from Egypt belong to works already
extant. With very few exceptions these papyri are much older
than the oldest of our medieval manuscripts (e.g. for the greater
part of Xenophon's Cyropaedia we have no manuscript earlier
than the twelfth century, while our earliest papyrus fragments
are of the second), and as a rule were copied before the families
into which our manuscripts divide were formed; in consequence
their evidence, as it stands outside the common tradition of the
manuscripts, is often of particular value. To generalize on the
relation of the papyri to the medieval texts is only possible
within wide limits, as the text of each author has its own history
and its own problems, but with this qualification some comments
are possible. On the whole the papyri support the general con-
sensus codicum to a surprising extent; that our tradition is
generally sound cannot be doubted unless far-reaching changes
1 The best discussion of this subject to which I am indebted here is still
that by B. P. Grenfeli in The Journal of Hellenic Studies for 1919.