Ostrakon with Lines from Homer’s Iliad, Limestone with ink incription, Coptic

Ostrakon with Lines from Homer’s Iliad

Made in Thebes, Byzantine Egypt
Limestone with ink incription
4 3/4 x 3 9/16 in. (12 x 9.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1914
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 302
Ostraca are texts written on broken pottery, which were employed when parchment was unavailable or too expensive. At Epiphanius a large number of ostraca were discovered in the monastery, including in its rubbish heaps; they record biblical verses, legal documents, sermons, financial accounts, school texts, and letters requesting assistance and prayers. Some reveal that, even at the southernmost border of the Empire, people were still aware of events in the capital, Constantinople.

Ostracon with Lines from Homer’s Iliad
“Sing, goddess, the wrath of Peleus’s son,” the opening line of the Iliad, is written four times, probably as a school exercise in writing cursive Greek. Other lines from Homer are found on other ostraca.
From Cell B at the Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes. Museum excavations, 1913–14. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1914.
Crum, W. E., and H. G. Evelyn-White. The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes. Vol. II. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1926. no. 611, p. 320, pl. XIV.

Papanikola-Bakirtzi, Demetra, ed. Everyday life in Byzantium. Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Directorate of Byzantine and Post Byzantine Monuments, 2002. no. 673, pp. 492–93.