Egypt has provided an impressive number of papyri related to oratory and rhetoric: more than 1400 items, dated from the early 3rd c. BC to the Arab period, and scattered along all the country, from the small towns in Fayum to larger cities along the Nile. ‘Rhetorical’ papyri are a fil rouge crossing and joining the multifarious faces of Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Egypt. The study of such an array of texts and books may offer new perspectives for the reconstruction of the spreading of Greek literary heritage in peripheral milieux. With such perspective, the paper will focus on a specific cathegory of ‘rhetorical’ papyri, the collections of progymnasmata, the ‘preliminary exercices’, and more specifically on the early steps of their circulation, from the Ptolemaic to the Imperial age. The survey will consider the main characteristics of extant texts as well as the physical features of the books and the sheets where they are written, in an attempt to show the social and cultural profile of their readers and owners, and the ultimate reasons of their interest for rhetoric and more in general for Greek literature of the past centuries.

Lucio Del Corso (B.A. in Classics, Sapienza University of Rome; Ph.D. in Textual and Manuscript Studies, University of Cassino) is associate professor in the University of Cassino and Southern Latium (Italy), where he teaches Papyrology and Classical Reception. He has previously taught at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata” and has been research associate and visiting academic at the Center for the Study of Ancient Documents – Oxford University. He joined several archaeological excavations, as epigraphist and papyrologist, and is now member of the Italian mission in Antinoupolis (Egypt). He is also the supervisor of the PSI-online project (, the main Italian digital resource for the study of Greek papyri. His research topics include Greek papyri and inscriptions, ancient school, reading and writing practices in the Greek world. He is the author of La lettura nel mondo ellenistico (Roma-Bari 2005) and of many contributions in books and journals, on several aspects of ancient Greek written heritage and literary culture.

Respondent: AnneMarie Luijendijk, Religion


Cosponsored by the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity