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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Greek Papyri                        261
We can watch, too, to a limited extent in the papyri the process
by which a classical tradition was formed, a result partly of the
work İf the critics and scholars of Alexandria, though originally
they had no such object in mind (to the pre-Alexandrine age
the idea was entirely alien), in part of the schools and the con-
servatism of the school tradition. In the Ptolemaic period we
find that the new literary fragments greatly exceed in number
those of known authors; in the Roman period the balance is
fairly equally held between the two, while in the Byzantine age
the known and standard texts predominate. But this was no
single or even a deliberate process, at least in the early stages;
that the Byzantines were not limited to the standard authors
that survived in medieval times is clear from the discovery of
the texts of Eupolis and Sappho to mention two names alone.
Nor could any discovery offer clearer proof of the survival of
Hellenism or suggest more markedly the continuity between the
ancient and medieval worlds than does that of a treatise on
Aristotelian physics, written after the Arab conquest of the
country, and forming as it does a visible link between the
philosophy of Greece and that of Averroes and Aquinas.
Christian literature has been enriched no less than pagan by
the Egyptian discoveries. Here again we find the same variety
in kind, in age, and in condition; side by side with the canonical
books of the Bible have been discovered non-canonical and
apocryphal works, stories and sayings of the saints, homilies,
liturgies, prayers, and hymns. Taken together the7 present ns
with a fair picture of the reading and culture of the Christian
community in Upper Egypt, at least in the later centuries; the
impartial spade will turn up now a few verses of the Psalms
scrawled on papyrus and carried round the owner's neck as an
amulet, now a primitive hymn with musical notation, now part
of a treatise by Origen or the letters of St. Basil. The additions
to Christian literature need a chapter to themselves; all we can