Research on Literary Papyri
The “Constitution of the Athenians” & Alcman, Fragment 1

Summary: A collaborative project of editing and analysis focused on two literary papyri. The papyrus B.M. 131, contains fragments of the Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians. Images of the papyrus are courtesy of the British Library, under an open-content license for non-commercial use. Papyrus, P. Louvre E 3320 contains a fragment of Alcman’s “Parthenaion”, images © 2010 Musée du Louvre, Georges Poncet. Used by permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC license. This project uses the CITE Infrastructure, developed by the Homer Multitext (C. Dué & M. Ebbott, editors).

Collaboration: C.W. Blackwell, Sean Bonawitz, Furman University. Neel Smith, College of the Holy Cross. D. Arabadjis, F. Giannopoulos, C. Papaodysseus, S. Zannos, National Technical Univrsity of Athens, P. Rousopoulos, Technical Institute of Chalkida, M. Panagopoulos, Ionian University.

New Publication: Arabadjis, D., F. Giannopoulos, C. Papaodysseus, S. Zannos, P. Rousopoulos, M. Panagopoulos, and C. Blackwell. “New Mathematical and Algorithmic Schemes for Pattern Classification with Application to the Identification of Writers of Important Ancient Documents.” Pattern Recognition 46, no. 8 (August 2013): 2278–2296. doi:10.1016/j.patcog.2013.01.019.

The Constitution of the Athenians (or Athenaiōn Politeia, Ἀθηνναίων Πολιτεία) is a history of Athenian government from the 7th century BCE until the 4th century, including a detailed account of the functioning of the democratic government during the Classical period. The work was attributed to the philosopher and scientist Aristotle, although there is some question as to its precise authorship. Diogenes Laertius, author of a work The Lives of the Philosophers, lists the works that Aristotle wrote, including this item:

πολιτεῖαι πόλεων δυοῖν δεούσαιν ρξ'· κατ’ εἴδη · δημοκρατικαί, ὀλιγαρχικαί, τυραννικαί, ἀριστοκρατικαί.
“Constitutions of cities, two less than 160; according to type: democratic, oligarchic, tyrannic, and aristocratic.” — Diogenes Laertius, 5.27

The papyrus that is called “P. Lond. 131” (“London Papyrus 131”), or sometimes “B.M.Pap. 131” (“British Museum Papyrus 131”), was purchased under obscure circumstances by E.A.T.W. Budge in 1888. In 1890 F. G. Kenyon identified the text on the verso (the back) as being a “Constitution of Athens” and assserted that this was the work written by Aristotle. Of all ancient Greek cities, none was more culturally significant than Athens, and so this is certainly the most important text discovered on papyrus in the 19th century, if not ever.

The papyrus fragment Louvre E 3320 contains the only surviving fragment of a poem, the Partheneion (Παρθενεῖον) by Alcman. This fragment was discovered in Egypt in 1855 by M. Mariette, and given to the Louvre in 1863. It was published in an edition of 1870 by Marco Antonio Canini, who observed that “the writing is uneven and bad” (“L’écriture en est enégale et mauvaise”).

Images of BM 131 © The British Library Board. Licensed for non-commercial use for scholarly analysis under an agreement with the British Library. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EAGER-1041949. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).