To Addison's Walk to get some exercise and see how the deer are coping with the Global Warming. The Youff of Magdalen have used the drifts of GW to attempt a giant phallus; I say 'attempt' because they have not succeeded in getting it up very high. Undergraduates are not what they were. Si la jeunesse pouvait, si la vieillesse savait, or whatever it was we used to say.
Then, to get warm, across the road to the Rain Forests. Unfortunately, they were closed for 'essential maintenance', so I made do with the papyrus grove on the Nile Delta. I like it. It reminds me of all that papyrus has meant for human culture ... right down to the 'New Sappho' in the last number of Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik. It's probably about what she wants the Girls to do at her funeral, but we may never know, because the left hand side of the page is missing. It so often is. Papyri are fun for classicists, because they are new evidence and they explode hypotheses, reminding us that a hypothesis is only a hypothesis and a scholar is only a scholar. A couple of examples: dear old Sappho; was she a schoolmistress or just a randy old dike? (You can't be both.) Von Wilamowitz Moellendorf backed his hunch that she was a respectable schoolmistress and indignantly, chivalrously, defended her reputation against sacrilegious attack. Then D L Page did a wonderful demolition job on the Graf; pointing out that there is no evidence whatsoever that Sappho ran a school and that the obvious assumption is that was a .... um ... Lesbian. Then a decade or two ago, a fragment of a Hellenistic biography was published which asserted that she was ... a schoolmistress. Facial egg for Page; rehabilitation for the Graf von W-M.
And there is the question of the rather masochistic topos whereby Roman Elegists addressed their puella as Domina and assumed a role of servitium towards her. Who began that game? R O A M Lyne, of Balliol College in this University, proved conclusively and beyond all doubt that it was Propertius. But while Lyne's book was actually being printed, the Gippoes (as my poor father, a politically incorrect sailorman, called them) made an enormous dam at Aswan. And some rescue archeology was done at a Roman fortlet on the site. And a papyrus fragment - only six lines - came to light, showing that the elegist Gallus, who wrote just before Propertius and whose work had been lost, addressed his Lycoris as Domina. Oops-a-daisy for Dr Lyne! Bliss!
Papyri do throw light on the New Testament. A few years ago, some fragments from Qumran demonstrated that S Mark's Gospel and S Paul's 'Pastoral Epistles' were written before 70 A.D.. That, of course, explodes the entire fashionable sceptical structure of liberal Protestant Anglo-Saxon 'New Testament Studies' created in the twentieth century. But NT 'scholars' are not like us Classicists; they can't bear having their cherished beliefs, which they have gullibly accepted all their lives, and made the basis of all their laborious hypothesising, subverted. So they just refused to believe it! How dreadful it must be to be so mired and imprisoned in the dead dogmas of the Dark Ages!
Thanks be to God for his mercy and grace in making me a Classicist and a Catholic, permitted to follow the evidence and to think for myself.
I just happen to think that it is usage to give Papyri as the plural of Papyrus, but Phalluses as the plural of Phallus. So there.