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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

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Egypt and the Byzantine Empire            343
neither the opportunity nor the inclination to follow the
ancient ways.
It is, however, possible to exaggerate the extent of the
change. If paganism was long a-dying the Hellenic tradition
was even slower to pass away. It is to a fifth-century papyrus
codex that we are most indebted for our knowledge of Menander's
dramatic art. It was found among the papers of Dioscorus, a
notary of Coptic origin but Greek education whose home was
Aphrodito, once capital of the Aphroditopolite nome but then
a village in the pagarchy of Antaeopolis. Menander was of
course popular long into the Christian period; but with this
manuscript was found a fragment of the Demes of Eupolis, a
writer of the Old Comedy. If the taste for such reading existed
in a village of the Thebaid we may be sure that Greek literature
was still studied in the greater centres. And as a matter of fact
papyrus discoveries prove what was a priori likely. True, as we
advance into the Byzantine Age literary papyri become rarer,
and the ratio of unknown works diminishes greatly; but authors
represented in fragments of this period include, besides the
ubiquitous Homer and the ever popular Menander, Hesiod,
Sappho, Pindar, Aristophanes, Theocritus, and Callirnachus.
Moreover, Egypt, so comparatively poor in outstanding writers
during the Roman period, produced, in the decline of Hellen-
ism, several poets of note. The most prominent was Nonnus
of Panopolis, but he was by no means a solitary figure. In the
sixth century Dioscorus of Aphrodito exemplifies curiously the
Greek culture of a small provincial centre. Sprung of a Coptic
family, which was rising in social position, he was educated for
the law, acquired a taste for Greek letters, studied classical
literature and mythology, and was an assiduous writer of verse,
execrable indeed in quality, not infrequently unmetrical, and
full of words misunderstood or used with little sense of literary
relevance, yet showing, with all its badness, the appeal which
the world of Hellenic culture still retained, even for a man of