|Case Study: Athenians at Plataea|
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Athenians at Plataea
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A Test Case: 'Athenians at Plataea?'
This papyrus fragment (P.Oxy 3965 fr.1, imaged here at 150dpi) contains part of a previously unknown epic poem by Simonides about the Greeks’ victory against the Persians at Plataea. As you can see, its condition isn’t great: the papyrus is fragmentary and full of holes, and parts of the ink are quite worn. Disagreement continues over one important issue of interpretation: did Simonides put the Athenians in his poem?
Since the text is so scrappy, this question boils down to: is one disputed word (of which only traces of the end survive) “man]tios” — meaning a Spartan seer mentioned elsewhere in the text — or “Kekro]pos” — a reference to Kekrops, a figure of Athenian myth?
It all depends on whether the remains represent tau-iota, or pi. We tried using digital imaging to explore both possibilities.
‘Athenians at Plataea’: is it A pi?
Here are the suspect traces (bottom left) compared against some definite pi-omicrons elsewhere in the text. You'll notice the 'serif' on some of the upstrokes of those pis.
‘Athenians at Plataea’: is it tau and iota?
This time we compare blowups of some definite taus elsewhere in the text. These include a tau-iota combination. Could the traces represent something like this?
Some taus here do have a long horizontal off to the left — could this explain the fragmentary trace running off the left-hand edge of the papyrus? If so, the ink between has worn off without a trace.
‘Athenians at Plataea’: enhancement
By way of experiment, we tried a range of digital adjustments on the suspect traces — all fairly basic stuff (standard PhotoShop). Here are some of the more interesting results. Do they help us toward an answer?