Review of Greek Papyri from Montserrat (P.Monts.Roca IV)

Originally published as Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.08.45; BMCR 2015.08.45 on the BMCR blog.

Sofía Torallas Tovar, Klaas A. Worp, Greek Papyri from Montserrat (P.Monts.Roca IV). Scripta orientalia, 1.   Barcelona:  Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2014.  Pp. 327; 55 p. of plates.  ISBN 9788498837001.  (pb).

Reviewed by W. Andrew Smith, Shepherds Theological Seminary (

Greek Papyri from Montserrat (cover)

The variety of Greek manuscripts found in the Abadia de Montserrat Collection (Barcelona) is a tribute to the efforts of Ramón Roca-Puig (1906–2001), who bequeathed the papyri to the abbey. The collection holds over 1500 papyrus and parchment items dating from the Ptolemaic period to the tenth century.

Sofía Torallas Tovar, Associate Professor of Classics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, has been the curator of the Papyrological collections at the Abadia de Montserrat since 2002 and directs the research conducted by the CSIC and Universitat Pompeu Fabra at the abbey. She has co-authored this fourth volume of Montserrat papyri 1 with professor emeritus at Leiden University Klaas A. Worp. The volume contains sixty-three Greek manuscripts, some published previously (often in publications that are difficult to obtain) and updated here, others published here for the first time. The other contributors to this volume are Alberto Nodar Domínguez and María Victoria Spottorno, bringing specialized expertise to the analyses of the Homeric and biblical papyri, respectively.

In addition to the color printed plates that are included with this book, high-quality digital images are available online at the DVCTVS website (, though the direct link to the digital catalogue is Searching the catalog using the P.Monts.Roca inventory numbers is the most expedient way to locate the manuscript images (links to which are located at the bottom of each full record).

The front matter of this book is quite brief. The volume begins with a three-page preface by Father Pius-Ramon Tragan, who is responsible for the Scriptorium Biblicum et Orientale at the abbey. Written in Catalan, the preface provides an overview of the scope and purpose of the publication project for the manuscripts housed at Montserrat. This is followed by the four-page introduction, which quickly orients the reader to the history of the manuscripts from the hands of Ramón Roca-Puig to the context of the current volume’s research. Very little is revealed regarding the modern provenance of these manuscripts.

Following the front matter, the descriptions of the papyri follow in the typical layout of papyrological works, divided according to type (literary, paraliterary, and documentary). The twenty literary manuscripts in this volume consist of: five Homeric papyri (two from the Ptolemaic period, containing Iliad 9.696–10.3 and Odyssey 11.73–78, and three from the Roman period, containing Iliad 1.135–139, Iliad 14.1–80, 369–381, 411–419, and Odyssey 5.113–122); three classical texts (Demosthenes’ Oratio 21.62, an intriguing fragment of an unidentified Hellenistic historiography, and a commentary on Theocritus’ Idylls 1.45–152, 7.5); twelve biblical texts (for readers in biblical studies, the Rahlfs numbers for the Septuagintal manuscripts are 952, 967, 983, 984, 2160, and 2162, while the Gregory-Aland identifiers for the New Testament manuscripts are P67, P80, 0252, 0267, and 0298); and seven works of Christian literature (lines 44–63 of Comparatio Menandri et Philistionis, a fragment with a portion of Hippolytus’ De benedictionibus Isaaci et Jacobi, two fragments of John Chrysostom’s De Virginitate, the earliest extant fragment of Methodius’ Symposium, and two unidentified Christian texts dating to the 4th/5th c. and 5th/6th c.).

The six paraliterary papyri consist of: a second- or third-century list of six gods (all in the genitive case); a portion of an amulet with eleven lines of magical text; a complete Christian healing amulet; an unknown literary text (incomplete, but possibly medical in nature) and partial Greek medical prescription from the late Ptolemaic period; a Greek horoscope dated to 336/7 CE; and a dated name tag (2nd c. CE).

The thirty-one documentary papyri cover a wide variety of topics. There are five public documents, including: a petition from the priests of Seknebtynis to an unidentified official (2nd c. BCE); an application from Tanais for seed-corn, with an accompanying oath, from the reign of Domitian; a papyrus declaring the death of a woman (whose name is lost) from the first or second century; a declaration from two priests to the logistes of Oxyrhynchus (c. 325 CE); and a tomos synkollesimos from early Byzantine Egypt, with an administrative account and a report of trial proceedings. There are five tax-related documents: a second-century receipt from Bubastos for a tax referred to as hermeneia metrou; a fifth-century papyrus from Oxyrhynchus with two receipts, one for a monthly stathmos tax and one for the vestis militaris tax; and three documents from Hermopolis dating from the seventh to eighth centuries, including an item related to tax collection, and two tax receipts.

There are twelve contracts, including: a cession of land from Krokodilopolis (183/2 BCE); an extensive Ptolemaic contract of lease from Hephaistias (148 BCE); a loan of money from a woman in Oxyrhynchus to two other women (49–54 CE); a fragment of a house sale, in both Greek and demotic (37–69 CE); a deed of gift for a plot of land (161–169 CE); a labor contract for farm work and a lease for two pigs (3rd c. CE); a fragmentary division of an inheritance (dihaeresis) from Oxyrhynchus (Roman period); a contract to apprentice a textile worker (Oxyrhynchus, 3rd/4th c. CE); a fragment of an Oxyrhynchite loan contract (4th/5th c. CE); a fragment of the end of a contract, with indication of parties, oath, etc., from Oxyrhynchus (mid-5th c. CE); a notarized loan document from Herakleopolis (8th c. CE); and, finally, a Ptolemaic fragment that is intriguing because of its mention of sunthiasitai (“fellow-member of a thiasos”). There are five accounts and payments documents, including: a small fragment of an account dating to the third century BCE, possibly derived from cartonnage; an order from Oxyrhynchus for a baker to pay an individual a certain amount of money (336/7 BCE); a receipt for eighteen loaves of bread (6th/7th c. CE); an account from an unidentified monastery for an unknown purpose (7th/8th c. CE); and a list of names and payments, probably from Hermopolis (7th/8th c. CE). Finally, there are four private documents: a request for help from someone stopped at the (as yet unidentified) “Gate of Prosperity” (2nd c. CE); a nearly complete private letter from the third or fourth century mentioning a hieroglyph carver (surprising for that time period) and a pagan priest; a private letter from two authors apparently in Syria to a certain Kalliopios (4th/5th c. CE); and a fragment of a letter from a scholasticus to a (possibly known?) comes domesticorum named Solon (6th c. CE).

The usual indices follow the descriptions of the papyri (pp. 299–327). Following the indices are 55 pages of color plates, illustrating all papyri published in the volume. In most cases the color images are of an appropriate size, but there are some inventory items that are photographed at such a small size that they are difficult to examine (e.g., items 36, 2, 3, 315, and 241). The on-line images compensate for the presence of these smaller prints. Additionally, it is helpful that each papyrus is photographed with a ruler.

Given the number of pieces in this book, brief comments on three of the manuscripts follow to provide an idea of the volume’s contents. Roca-Puig’s primary interest was in biblical manuscripts, and the biblical papyri from this collection represent important witnesses to the transmission history of the Greek Bible. For example, the two fragments that compose P.Monts.Roca 1 (Gregory-Aland P67) are an early (late second century) witness to the Gospel of Matthew (containing Matt. 3:8–9, 14–15 and 5:20–22, 25–28); the fragments are known to be part of the same manuscript as GA P64 (Oxford’s Magdalene Greek 17). In Spottorno’s analysis of P.Monts.Roca 1, she proposes a convincing reconstruction of the manuscript (including P64) as a two-column codex with quires of four bifolia. Other papyri of particular interest include the Homeric items, especially those of the so-called “wild” Ptolemaic papyri because of the unique variants they present. In his analysis of these Ptolemaic papyri (P.Monts.Roca 47 and 46), Nodar records the plus and minus verses in this volume but refers elsewhere for discussion of those variants.2 A final interesting piece, the unidentified Hellenistic historiography of P.Monts.Roca 267 (a roll from the 3rd c. BCE), provides an enticing glimpse into what may be a historiographical work of Alexander. Only two names, Eurydice and (possibly) Ptolemy, survive in the work, which is comprised of three fragments: in the first fragment Eurydice is among bodyguards; in the second there is travel along a coast back to a military camp after offering a sacrifice involving a female costume, a golden bowl, an axe, and an iron dagger; in the third there is a sacrificial offering of a hecatomb of goats, sheep, and calves. A lengthy and insightful commentary accompanies this papyrus, discussing possible interpretations of the text.

For the papyrologist, this type of cataloging and discussion of numerous manuscripts of disparate subjects represents an invaluable data mine. In light of the obscure nature of the previous publications of papyri from this collection, this work is a boon to researchers with a wide range of manuscript interests. Compared to the wealth of information provided in the indices, it is disappointing (but not unusual) that this book has no accompanying bibliography. Regardless, the attention to detail and the expertise of the authors render this book a valuable and appreciated contribution to the field.

1.   See also Sofía Torallas Tovar and K. A. Worp, To the Origins of Greek Stenography (P. Monts.Roca I) (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2006); Sofía Torallas Tovar, Biblica Coptica Monserratensia P.Monts.Roca II (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2007); and Sofía Torallas Tovar and Juan Gil, Hadrianvs P.Monts.Roca III (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2010).
2.   A. Nodar, “Wild papyri in the Roca-Puig collection,” in P. Schubert (ed.), Actes du 26e Congrès international de papyrologie, Genève 16–21, août 2010 (Genève 2012), 565–572.

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