Imperialist Fragmentation and the Discovery of Bacchylides

David Fearn

in Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199584727
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595301 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Imperialist Fragmentation and the Discovery of Bacchylides

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On Christmas Eve 1896, The Times heralded the discovery of a large papyrus roll containing works by the Greek lyric poet Bacchylides, while lamenting that ‘unfortunately the manuscript has suffered severely at the hands of its native discoverers, and is torn into many fragments’. This chapter discusses this report, along with the alternative and more lavish account of the discovery made by the collector who brought the papyrus back to London: E. A. T. Wallis Budge of the British Museum. It explores ways in which even a highly technical discipline such as Greek papyrology could be drawn into British imperial discourse, showing how the activities and scholarship of nineteenth‐ and early twentieth‐century British collectors and papyrologists with regard to ownership of the material culture of the Graeco‐Roman world—including papyri—affected their historical, cultural, and imperial attitudes, and vice versa.

Keywords: Bacchylides; papyri; Egypt; Wallis Budge; British Empire; antiquities; papyrology; collecting; ownership

Chapter.  10409 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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