5 ancient reading lists

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How to answer the question “What to read?” the inhabitants of the Roman province of Egypt I–V centuries ad.

  1. The Epicureans

— The Treatises Of Metrodora

— Epicurus. “On justice” and “the pleasure”

“…Hello. Send you books of metrodora and books of Epicurus: “of justice”, which is one of the best; “On pleasure” book one… book two “About…” …another friend of Epicurus, and I will send; the other books I sent through… say Hello… it seems that they have not delivered… Be healthy. 4-th year. 4th hoyaka”.

A book of Epicurus “On justice and other virtues” was named among the best not only the author of the letter but of the historian Diogenes Laertius. From him, we know the names of the twelve works of metrodora — one of the main representatives of Epicureanism. “On pleasure” Epicurus is quoted also in Cicero. The fourth day of the month of hoyaka corresponds to 30 Nov.

  1. The Stoics

— Boat. “On austerity”

— Diogenes. “On marriage” and “how to avoid the sadness”

— Chrysippus. “On the treatment of parents”

— Antipater. “On the treatment of slaves”

— Posidonius. “About moral motivation”

“Feel friend Heraclides hi. Because I with all diligence try to buy useful books, especially those that are important to life, then I think that you, too fitting not to neglect the reading of these books because they give you extraordinary benefits to all who strive to succeed. Here are the books I gave you in Achilles. Be healthy; I was healthy. Say hi to people. Written in Alexandria:

  • Boat “On austerity”, books 3 and 4;
  • Diogenes “On marriage”;
  • Diogenes “On how to avoid all the trouble”;
  • Chrysippus “About the treatment of parents”;
  • Antipater “On the treatment of slaves”, books 1 and 2;
  • Posidonius “About moral motivation”, book 3;
  • From Theon to Heraclides, the philosopher”.

This extensive list shows the distribution of stoicism in Egypt of the Roman period. Almost all of these names were unknown until the publication of the letter. Only essay Diogenes “how to avoid sorrow” is mentioned in one papyrus list of books — the so-called prophetic papyrus, kept in Saint-Petersburg.

  1. Philologists and linguists, the end of the II century ad

— Gypsycat. “Make fun of in Comedy”

— Versager. “The tragic myths”

— Seleucus. “Grammatical time”

“Make and send me copies of the sixth and seventh books “the Fun in the Comedy” Gypsycat. Harpocration says that they are among the books Poliana. Most likely, others do too. He also has a brief summary in prose of the “Tragic myth” Perahora.

Says Harpocration, they are a bookseller Demetrius. I asked Apollonia to send me some of my books, what you yourself know from it. And make copies of the work of Seleucus “the times” and send me all the books you can find, except those which I have. In Diodorus and his circle is also something I have none.”

This letter was probably sent to Exiting from Alexandria. About the book “made Fun of in Comedy” is not known, but we know that the historian and the grammarian Hipicrit hail from the city of AMIS lived in the I century BC Also didn’t know anything about Pershore, nor the product of “a Tragic myth”, but extant data on Harpocration. This well-known grammarian of Alexandria lived in the second-century ad and compiled a dictionary of the ten Athenian orators. Mentioned in the letter, Polion may be others known of Alexandria, the lexicographer Valerius Pollio, the compiler of the dictionary attic Greek and Diodorus his son, Valery he was from Alexandria. Perhaps books referred to in the letter was used to train students in rhetorical schools.

  1. Christians, the beginning of the IV century BC

— Small Genesis

“My beloved mistress sister, greetings in the Lord. I lend the Ezra, since I lent you the Small Being. Hi God”.

This letter is written in a Christian environment. Unusually, that did not contain the names of the sender and the addressee — maybe as a precaution. Christianity was not yet officially accepted in the Roman Empire and was possible persecution. Small Genesis is the Greek title of the Book of Jubilees, where he outlined the events from the book of Genesis and explained by the sacred history with a hint of the end of the world. Instead, the sender (or assume that the BD) asks the Book of Ezra. It is unclear which of the texts attributed to this author have in mind. Perhaps it is the Apocalypse of Ezra — these eschatological (that is, concerning the end of the world) texts were very influential among early Christians.

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  1. Rhetorician, 2nd half of V century BC

— Alexander Claudius. Commentary on Demosthenes

— Menander. “Art”, “Methods” and “a Commendable speech”

“My Lord and good brother Feognost greetings from Victor.

Let your eloquence vouchsafed to give Elijah, the servant of Mr. master, a book that I gave your fraternity when you were in Hermopole — because God knows that I really need! — review Alex on the speaker of Demosthenes; and the “Art” of Menander as quickly as possible.

And “Methods” and “a Commendable speech” as quickly as possible. ☧ Reminder Feognost from Victor”.

“Your eloquence” — the honorable treatment. So I wrote the lawyers and all who are professionally engaged in rhetoric. “Your brotherhood” — another appeal, which, like the monogram of the name of Christ at the end of the letter (☧), indicates that the correspondence involves two Christians. The author of a commentary on Demosthenes, Alexander the Sophist Claudius, known from other sources — it is referred to the Byzantine commentators and compilers of encyclopedias. Other books are written by Menander, a well — known rhetorician of Laodicea in Phrygia III century BC. e. Probably, the addressee and the letter writer were rhetoricians; Victor had to write a speech, and he asked me to bring the necessary books. The letter suggests that the Egyptian Christians in the fifth century continued to study the rhetoric of pagan samples.

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