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.
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