The Derveni Papyrus
A conversation with Richard Janko

In 1962, a half-burnt scroll was discovered in an excavated grave in Derveni, Greece. Though nearly discarded as a burnt stick, it was later revealed to be the oldest surviving European manuscript.

But the so-called Derveni papyrus is much more than just old. University of Michigan classicist ...


About Richard Janko:

Richard Janko is the Gerald F. Else Collegiate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan. Professor Janko's work focuses primarily on Bronze Age Greece, ancient Greek epic, and ancient literary criticism. He has authored numerous articles, many of which analyze the Derveni pa...


Some Additional Resources:
The Derveni Papyrus: Cosmology, Theology and Interpretation

by Gábor Betegh
Click here to see Richard Janko’s Review of Betegh.

Reconstructing (again) the Opening of the Derveni Papyrus

Article by Richard Janko

Studies on the Derveni Papyrus

by André Laks

The Herculaneum Library: Some Recent Developments

Article by Richard Janko

Discovering the Past (Commentary Excerpt)

Everybody likes a good discovery: a new author, a new holiday spot, even a new restaurant. But for a professional academic, making a discovery isn’t just pleasant: it’s little short of essential, an integral aspect of how one’s entire career is judged.

Just what we mean by the term, however, can range all over the map.

In the natural sciences, the goal is simply to unveil something new about the world around us. Either through encountering new phenomena – uncovering an unseen species or exoplanet – or, more ambitiously, by constructing dramatically improved explanations of what we’ve already experienced, like Darwin’s theory of evolution or Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Mathematicians are convinced that they make discoveries too, but tend to be fairly squeamish about pressing the point, given that such talk puts them on naturally slippery metaphysical ground: just where might this land of mathematical discovery be, exactly?

And then there are those whose land of discovery is firmly rooted in the past.

Economists are a famous example of this: their consistently lamentable foresight is stunningly compensated for, or so they like to tell us, by their unparalleled ability to interpret what has already occurred.

Rather more rigorously come the historians and anthropologists. They typically have the good sense to refrain from even attempting to predict the future, concentrating instead on developing innovative frameworks to better understand recorded events.

Occasionally, though, past and present collide and new information comes to light that suddenly forces our hand. Some new object is uncovered, some pottery or manuscript or ancient ruin is unexpectedly unearthed, and more often than not we find ourselves starkly confronted with tangible evidence that our past assumptions are considerably shakier than we had thought...

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