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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: Introduction

The Oracle of the Potter: Late third century AD

Written on the back of legal proceedings of 284 AD, in a tight, crabbed cursive of contemporary date, the text records a version of a prophecy already known from two papyri in Vienna. The prophecy, couched in the voice of a ‘potter’, is a version of an Egyptian original composed in Demotic. Apocalyptic in character, it looks forward to a ‘golden age’, when a good daemon or king will come as a source of evil ‘to the Greeks’, and reduce the ‘upstart city by the sea’ (parathalassios polis) — i.e. Alexandria — to ‘a place where fishermen dry their nets’ (psugmon hallieon).

The text may reveal dissatisfaction in Egypt with Imperial administration, such as we also find reflected in the Acta Alexandrinorum.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol. XXII no. 2332