Abduction of Briseis


This leaf of papyrus, which bears on the recto a rough line-drawing, was clearly later split into pieces and used for a letter, the remains of which (ten lines) are to be found on the verso. The drawing depicts the abduction of Briseis by the heralds Talthybius and Eurybates, which is related in Canto 1 of the Iliad (lines 330−48). The head covering of the central female figure—who, while looking back, moves onward resisting—is reminiscent of a Phrygian cap. The illustration initially cast doubt on this interpretation of the subject, but several iconographical parallels can be produced to support the conclusion that this is indeed a rare example of an Iliad illustration from late antiquity. These examples also suggest that the fragment is of Egyptian origin. The original context of the papyrus remains uncertain: it may have formed part of an illustrated manuscript (roll or codex) of the Iliad, or of a work with pictorial representations of mythological material; or it may have been a separate folio (perhaps used as a pattern in an art workshop). The leaf, which is pieced together from fragments, was acquired by the Bavarian State Library in 1913 through the German Papyrus Cartel.

Last updated: April 22, 2015