Soto Marin and Tsolakis Participate in the Summer Institute in Papyrology at Washington University

By Maggie Pavao

An account of a Syrian girl sold twice into slavery in Roman Egypt, an Imperial letter or Prefect’s edict, a petition to the defensor civitatis of Oxyrhynchus from 463 CE, an order from a 5th century CE count… the breadth and variety of stories and narratives with the potential to be reconstructed from papyri are indispensable for the understanding of the ancient world. But how easy is it to read these Ancient Greek texts written on old papyrus fragments? How do we make historical sense from a wide corpus of papyri scattered throughout collections in the world (estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands)? The discipline of papyrology has been active for over two centuries and thus learning how to edit texts and decipher nuances, how to use editions and instrumenta, and how to implement the new tools in the field all require substantial training.

With this in mind, the Summer Institute in Papyrology was created by the American Society of Papyrologists in the late 1960s, but was discontinued by 1971. Fortunately, a new series of SIP seminars was reinstituted in 2003, which has been taking place biennially around the United States in universities with papyrological collections.

Irene Soto Marin and Georgios Tsolakis are participating in the SIP this year, hosted at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Each SIP seminar has a unique theme, depending on the papyri housed in the host institutions. Since Wash U’s holdings consist of Late Antique papyri from the excavations at Oxyrhynchus by William Flinders Petrie in the early 1920’s, the seminar is focused on Late Antique documentary papyri (accounts, letters, orders, contracts, and census declarations, among other texts). This year’s SIP is organized and taught by Prof. Roger Bagnall and Prof. Todd Hickey (Berkeley).

The aim of this intensive 5-week program is to train the next generation of papyrologists and guide the participants while they read unpublished texts and prepare them for publication. Different guest instructors come throughout the summer and offer lectures on various topics pertaining to the seminar’s theme. But it’s not all work and no play and St. Louis is a city that has a lot to offer culturally, so the program includes a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum to see the exhibit Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds, a visit to the numismatic collection at the Kemper Art Museum, and an evening baseball game to see the local St. Louis Cardinals play the Colorado Rockies!