Tanner, Stewart

Document Sample
Tanner, Stewart Powered By Docstoc
					                                Tanner, Stewart
 Carmen de Bello Actiaco (PHerc 817): The Illumination of a Two
    Thousand Year-Old Papyrus with a 21st Century Eureka
                           Faculty Mentor: Roger Macfarlane, Classics

The days when scholars of the Classics refuted the ability of technology to contribute to their
discipline are a memory of the past. From archaeology to papyrology the study of the Ancients
through the lens of tomorrow advances daily. Such was my experience with the revolutionary
breakthrough of multi-spectral imaging (MSI) on a remnant from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in
79 A.D.: A charred, millennia-old piece of papyrus (PHerc 817) from Herculaneum, Italy
treating the famous Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. From Provo to Palo Alto, from Naples to
Oxford, the ORCA Grant provided me with the necessary catalyst to embark on developing a
new digitized edition of the poem and leading to one of the most unique opportunities ever
provided to an undergraduate in the Classics.

The work for this project started at the beginning of the 2002-2003 academic year as I sat in the
office of Dr. Roger Macfarlane and learned of BYU’s unique involvement with the Herculaneum
Papyri Project housed in La Officina dei Papiri Ercolanesi in the National Library of Naples,
Italy. Through their intuition and innovation, BYU scholars had been invited over to Naples in
1999 to digitize over 2,000 papyri scrolls using a BYU-developed technology known as multi-
spectral imaging. MSI transformed papyrological writings illegible to the naked eye into clear,
lucid images easily deciphered on a computer screen. Classical scholars from around the world
had been working with the MSI-aided images on many of the Greek papyri to assist them in their
understanding and translations of the ancient texts, but none had ventured to delve into the Latin
collection. It was this opportunity to fuse modernity with a papyrological poetical piece
composed in Latin (PHerc 817) from the late Roman Republic that pushed me over the top.

This vision to create a new digitized edition available to all interested scholars began in the upper
levels of the Harold B. Lee Library as I began research and requests to collate all prior
translations of this famous poem from all over the world. As interlibrary materials started to
become available to me, I realized that the majority of my research was going to take place not in
English, but in Italian, German and French. With my Latin background and along with the
assistance of fellow associates, I taught myself (with much difficulty and various amounts of
success) the basic grammar and vocabulary of these languages so that I would be able to
understand more or less what it was that I was reading. With each translation I tried to note
differences between it and its chronological predecessors. As I compared and contrasted these
various editions with the MSI images I began to formulate a hypothesis that many of the
translations had failed to take into account - what the Italians call sovraposti and sottoposti,
respectively translated as “over” and “underlying” papyri layers obscuring certain letters. That
is, when the papyrus was unrolled, some papyri sheets remained stuck to sheets on different
levels and thus translations were altered drastically, though this phenomenon remained hidden to
the naked eye.

With a clearer understanding of what I was seeking to accomplish I began my travels to further
my research and to collaborate with papyrological experts from around the world on the
feasibility and ultimate application of my project. Outside of Provo, my first trip was to Palo
Alto, California in July to meet with renowned Stanford University professors Michael
Wigodsky and Michael Jameson. Professor Wigodsky had spent a considerable amount of time
at the Library in Naples and frequently had consulted the papyri housed there. After sharing my
research and ideas with the professor, he encouraged me to continue to explore the hypothesis I
had formulated. He also recommended that I familiarize myself with the context of Augustan
and post-Augustan literature and poetry, so as to attempt to identify the unknown author of the
poem. Professor Jameson was equally enthusiastic about my research and talked about a like-
technique he had used called stereoscopic photography fused with laser enhancement on
epigraphies to translate ancient texts. Their prime (and valid) concern was whether or not the
project was a little too ambitious for an undergraduate. As time would tell, there were definitely
some areas of my research that I could not follow through with given my training, including the
complete and accurate translation of all the Latin in the poem.

In August I flew to Naples, Italy to meet with BYU’s Dr. Macfarlane and learn the art of
papyrological study from Gianluca del Mastro, a PhD candidate from La Universita di Napoli.
La Officina dei Papiri Ercolanesi was fascinating and the opportunity to see and study the
original papyrus was an amazing experience. With the MSI images on a computer interface to
my left, it became clear with the powerful and well-lit microscope that there were many
sovraposti and sottoposti the original translators had overlooked, and thus, had caused them to
mistranslate parts of the historic poem. For two weeks I went to the National Library to peruse
the original text and carefully mark on the MSI images any of my own observations that could
not be garnered from the images alone. I am currently in the midst of creating my own digitized
version of the poem with these noted observations so that those scholars who may not have the
opportunity to travel readily to Naples can first study the papyrus in detail before arrival. I
believe that this will enhance significantly the efficiency and accuracy with which the papyrus
will henceforth be studied and translated.

Following my two weeks in Naples I traveled to Oxford, England to consult some essential
facsimiles made of the original papyrus that rested in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
My visit to the Bodleian was tremendously informative due to the discovery of many significant
translation and editorial variations between the original scholars’ work done in Naples and that
performed by visitors from Oxford. The inclusion of these two different original translations of
the papyrus is vital to the completeness of the fully-digitized edition.

There is still much work to accomplish before the completion of my digitized edition of PHerc
817. Many classical scholars trained in the discipline of papyrology have expressed concern
regarding an undergraduate’s capacity to accomplish what I set out to do. I have made
modifications on my original hypothesis, but my intent has always been constant: To show that
the fusion of antiquity with technological breakthroughs such as multi-spectral imaging is not
only possible, but necessary. I anticipate the completion of my digitized collation of PHerc 817
with its prior editions sometime during 2004. This project has been one of the great experiences
of my life and has taught me the importance of persistence in reaching goals as well as the need
to cultivate continually the lessons of the Ancients in our lives.