Religious Studies 735 (Fall 2007) Greco-Roman REALIA [this page is periodically UNDER CONSTRUCTION]

Robert A. Kraft, coordinator


Class Schedule


What can the student of Greco-Roman history and thought learn from the various physical remains that have been preserved from that world (primarily 3rd century bce through 4th century ce)? We will explore such resources as inscriptions, papyri, coinage, art, archetecture and other archaeological remains, making use of local collections and expertise as well as more remotely available electronic and hardcopy published information and images. Knowledge of Greek and Latin will be helpful, although not absolutely necessary. This is an advanced "work-seminar," where we will be exploring and learning together, with publication of any significant results as a goal. (There will be some attention to upgrading relevant Wikipedia articles.)

General and some Basic Bibliography: 

See the new journal FACTA: A Journal of Roman Material Culture Studies ( From the PR blurb: "Facta" is an international journal (annual; also online for subscribers) aimed at creating a forum for Roman material culture studies. It focuses on how artefacts were produced and used throughout the Roman Empire, from Republican (late Hellenistic) times into Late Antiquity. It is interdisciplinary in concept, promoting the role of ancient history, technology, archaeometry, socio-political studies, socio-cultural studies, economy, demography, ethnology and other scientific disciplines, in archaeology. The first issue (2007) contains papers on a wide range of topics, while subsequent numbers will be devoted to specific themes; it will also present reviews of relevant books.

Graham Shipley, John Vanderspoel, David Mattingly, Lin Foxhall, The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xliv, 966. ISBN 10: 0-521-48313-1. ISBN 13: 978-0-521-48313-1. GBP 110.00. Reviewed by Phiroze Vasunia, University of Reading ENG.

Oxford Classical Dictionary [OCD] , third edition, edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (also online at the Penn library)

Pauly-Wissowa = Realencyclop├Ądie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, 1894 and following, plus it's offshoots in "Der Kleine Pauly" (1964-1975), Der Neue Pauly (1996-2003), and an English version of the latter being published by Brill (2002- ), the first parts of which are available online through the Penn library (2007) .

Useful information and web links can also be found on the Ekthesis site, on Jay Treat's lists of hot links, as well as elsewhere (learn to use, for example)

Epigraphy [see also the New Pauly article, with images in the German online version] (deals with writing inscribed on hard surfaces including Ostraca)

For digitization standards and discussions, see (EpiDoc)

For other general information, see and also

Papyrology, Scrollology & Codicology [see the New Pauly article on "papyrus" (English) and "papyrologie" (not yet in English), and OCD "papyrology (Greek, Latin)"] (ink-written materials of various sorts, including Ostraca)

For a useful gateway, see the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) site

For examples of working on local collections, see

Numismatics [New Pauly online only in German, "numismatik'] (coinage, money) -- every student will receive at least one "mystery coin" to identify

For a useful gateway, see Eric Kondratieff's site

Two Dimensional Art (mosaics, painting, drawings, etc.)

Three Dimensional Art (sculpture, reliefs, amulets, inscribed gems, etc.)

Architecture and Largescale Technology (buildings and other structures such as siege engines, ships, etc.)

Practical Technology, Serving Individuals (kitchens, toilets, baths, furniture, utensils, small weapons, etc.)

Mapping and Site Layout (cities, towns, roads)

We will only scratch the surface of this area. For a useful listing of some of the main issues regarding urban culture, see the review by Jason Moralee (Illinois Wesleyan University) of Jens-Uwe Krause, Christian Witschel, Die Stadt in der Spa+tantike -- Niedergang oder Wandel? Akten des internationalen Kolloquiums in Mu+nchen am 30. und 31. Mai 2003. Historia Einzelschriften Bd. 190.
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2006. Pp. 492. ISBN 13: 978-3-515-08810-7.

Domestic Archaeology (domesticated animals, plants, agriculture)

Nature Archaeology (undomesticated life, flora & fauna, forests, wastelands, rivers, seas, oceans)

Disaster Archaeology (earthquakes, eruptions, floods, fires, plague, shipwrecks, etc.)


Tentative Schedule (Fall 2007):

Note: Hopefully we will be able to schedule visits from various specialists at various times, although not necessarily coordianted with the announced weekly topics. It may also be possible to schedule trips to relevant sites such as the University Museum and the Rare Books Room in the Library. Consult this schedule regularly for additions and/or modifications.

Some suggested opening questions for visiting specialists:

With what sorts of physical objects and/or material culture do you deal?

Are there any special problems involved in locating or getting access to such "objects"?

Are there standard collections for reference, in hard copy and/or online?

What criteria are used to date and otherwise contextualize such "objects"?

Have there been any recent "breakthroughs" in the scholarly study of these materials?

week 01 (11 Sep): Worlds Full of Things -- Orientation, Interests, Resources, Projects, Opportunities

week 02 (18 Sep): Materials of Writing and Written Materials -- stone, clay, wood, papyri, leather, metal, etc.

Special Display: Jay Treat on modern papyri (with pieces for everyone)

Procedures & Objectives:

(1) examine cartonnage "clump" to be disassembled, and begin that process

(2) review in class the Wikipedia article on "Papyrology," suggest revisions later

(3) view some sample coins (and images of coins), illustrating potential problems

(4) view some sample images of inscriptions, for class and individual projects

(5) view VCR film (abridged) on papyrology, by E.G.Turner et al. (35 minutes)

(6) view NOVA materials on papyrology

(7) discuss types of material and implements used for writing

week 03 (25 Sep): Formats for Writing -- monuments, ostraca, plaques/tablets, sheets, scrolls, codices

Special Display: Jay Treat on writing implements

Procedures & Objectives:

(1) collect suggestions for Wikipedia papyrology article update

(2) examine and explain online paleography charts and their value for playing "the dating game" -- look, e.g. at our class projects for dating, and at these online samples from other locally available fragments

(3) begin work on class papyrus project UPennMuseum E16248 (paleography, decipherment)

(4) discuss the class project Roman tombstone inscription (see below for transcription) and its special problems (the Greek H X at thet top is a relatively rare equivalent to Latin D M, it seems)

(5) distribute unidentified coins (if the packet has arrived [it didn't])

(6) background information on FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins and other frequent 4th century Roman series

week 04 (02 Oct): Art in Various Forms and Media -- sculpture, reliefs, mosaics, painting, drawing, etc.

Show and Tell: Visit to Van Pelt Rare Books Room to see the Library Papyri collection

Procedures & Objectives:

(1) Show different formats of written materials (wax [and here], wood, linen, lead, papyrus, leather; roll [and here], codex, circular writing, boustrophedon [like the ox plows], palimpsest, opisthograph; columns, annotations, scholia, catenae, glosses, commentary, paragraph & related markers, pagination, stichoi, punctuation, diacritics, abbreviations and symbols, nomina sacra, musical notation, illustrations, titles & subscripts, tables of content, labels, seals [also here], decoration, coloration) [use google > images for more -- e.g. modern replicas; also search the Schoyen collection pages!]

(2) Discuss ancient storage and preservation techniques (omphalos, covers and bindings, capsa and portable containers, shelving, anthologies, libraries, "geniza")

(3) Start actual updating of Wikipedia article (evaluate this information)

(4) Create final version of class Inscription Project translation, and start adding notes

(5) Transcribe more of the class Papyrus Project, discuss problems

(6) [see #5 from last week]

week 05 (09 Oct): Coins as Media with Art and Writing

Review the expanded draft of the tombstone inscription

Discuss the problems in deciphering the class papyrus project

Distribute and discuss the unidentified Greek coins

[fall break, 13-16 Oct]

week 06 (23 Oct): Mapping Roads and Cities -- travel, city planning, stratification, etc.

Guest: Jeremy McInerney (Classical Studies), inscription "squeezes"

Check the latest annotations on class inscriptions project

Explore the abbreviations in the text of POxy 517 = E 2800 (130 ce)

Read review of book on Greek shorthand

Discuss relevance of Capasso's new book on Papyrologists for the Wikipedia article

Read review of recent anthology on Palestinian archaeology

Read review of anthology on multiculturalism in Rome (focus on articles on social strata in Rome)

Read Wikipedia article on Roman Roads (also in Britain)

Browse the Madaba mosaic map of Palestine, and information on Ephesus and Corinth

week 07 (30 Oct): Structures for Living and Grouping -- architecture, public & private buildings, etc.

Guest: Ross Kraemer (Brown Univeristy), inscriptions relating to Judaism (e.g. Aphrodisias); see these inscriptions -- Aphr#1, Aphr#2, other#3, other#4, other#5

Greek and Roman (with timeline) buildings, architectural styles, vocabulary, technology, etc.

Houses, especially Roman (with its various parts), apartments, etc.

A Roman Villa in North Africa

For an interesting application of such mapping studies see Harlow G. Snyder, "'Above the Bath of Myrtinus': Justin Martyr's 'School' in the City of Rome," Harvard Theological Review 100 (2007) 335-362.

week 08 (06 Nov): Objects Used in Everyday Living -- clothing, tools, toilets, decorations, jewelry, etc.

Meet at the University Museum to see the papyri room and an ostraca selection, plus a description of her work on Demotic papyri by Jennifer Houser Wegner
At 4:45, meet with David Romano for further examination of Museum based materials

week 09 (13 Nov): Special Needs -- warfare, athletics, transportation, communication, security, health, etc.

Guest: Thomas Tartaron (Classical Studies, Classical Archaeology) -- for an introduction to his interests, see

Here are images of some of the instruments used in ancient Roman medical procedures.

Progress report on the Wikipedia article on "Papyrology"

Reports on progress on projects: inscription, papyrus, coins (Virginia's report) , metal codex

[no class 20 Nov; Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in San Diego]

week 10 (27 Nov): Domestication of Nature -- farming, herding, taming, etc.

Guest: Ann Kuttner (History of Art)

week 11 (04 Dec): When Nature Betrays -- catastrophes (earthquake, volcano, storm, famine, etc.)


Overall Individual Requirements:

Upgrade or write at least one Wikipedia article (or related group of articles)

Transcribe and describe at least one papyrus from the UPenn collections (at least 20 lines)

Transcribe and describe at least one inscription (working from images, if necessary)

Identify and contextualize at least three ancient coins from different rulers, and describe your coins

Track and summarize the sales on eBay of at least one other ancient object (e.g. glassware, military implements, belt buckles, rings, jewelry)  


Class Projects:

Update the Wikipedia article on Papyrology, and create an outline for Greek and Roman Numismatics

Review and supplement the work done by the papyrology class on UPennMuseum E16542A

Prepare draft to transcribe, translate, and edit as much as possible of UPennMuseum E16248


Prepare draft to transcribe, translate, and annotate this Roman tombstone inscription


Speculate about the context and significance of this Roman metal codex

Enahnced page 1a, page 2a, page 3a, page 4a, page 5a, page 6a, page 7a

Identify mystery coins

Class Participants and their Chosen Projects:



Transcribe, translate, and edit UPennMuseum E16238 ; Metal codex p.1;

MANNICKAROTTU, SEVILE GEORGE: see webpage for projects (Metal codex p. 3, Jewish inscription, coins, Syriac papyrus)


SIETESKI, SARA: Wikipedia draft, tombstone draft, coin folder, Homer papyrus transcription & notes,

SOYARS, JONATHAN [audit, first three weeks]

TREAT, JAY [audit]

WAYLAND, VIRGINA L.: Wikipedia draft, coin identifications, ebay watch (misc, Jewish coins)

YOUNG, STEPHEN L.: Jewish inscription (Hileos); Sofia inscription; Metal codex; article on Jewish inscriptions for Wikipedia, coin identifications