As posted on Reuters this week and in several international newspapers today, “Archaeologists in Greece have discovered what they believe to be the oldest known extract of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey” [on a third century CE terracotta tablet from Olympia, Greece].
Two observations on this slightly misleading lede:
- The reports are clearly based on the Greek Ministry of Culture press release, with no additional reporting or opinion by the press agency (to the extent that Greek words for “poem”, “book”, “verse” etc. are translated literally rather than using the standard English terms)
- If this is indeed a third century inscription, then it is (as other reports make clear) only the oldest physical text of Homer from Greece—there are Homeric fragments on papyri and ostraka found in Egypt several hundred years older than this.
Reuters include this “handout” image of the tablet:
And a higher resolution photograph of the text itself:
Questions for epigraphist and Homerist readers:
- Has anyone seen this tablet, or come across a more academic publication of it or the archaeological site, yet?
- Can anyone with palaeographic skills confirm the likely date of the text from the photographs above?
- How many other inscriptions do we know that preserve Homeric or other verse texts of this kind? Would this likely have been a votive tablet?
Either way, we look forward to the official publications of this material.