This time it's a star turn for Peter Parson's City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007). This charming, entertaining and informative book is not only easy to read, it also delights with its clear-sighted analysis of the papyrus fragments found at the site of the Egyptian city of Oxyrhyncos. Here, in the early twentieth century, the archaeologists Grenfell and Hunt stumbled upon a classicist's dream - mounds and mounds of intact papyroi.
|Obelix: "These Egyptians are crazy!"|
There are many, shall we say, odoriferous anecdotes, but my favourite is this: Kallirhoe writes to a friend: "I make obeisance on your behalf every day before the Lord God Serapis. From the day you left we miss your turds, wishing to see you." It seems that those Egyptians had slightly different priorities. Then there's a "joke billet doux": "Apion and Epimas say to their very dear Epaphroditos: 'If you let us bugger you and it's OK with you, we shall stop thrashing you - if you let us bugger you.' Keep well! Keep well!'" As Obelix might say: "These Egyptians are crazy."
Spicy and engaging, Peter Parsons makes a knowing Hermes in this, his guide to a world that we can build up from the tiniest of particles into a whole, bustling, human universe.