The Derveni Papyrus is Considered the Oldest Manuscript in Europe

Yana Bostongirl

The Derveni Papyrus is considered the oldest manuscript in Europe and was discovered by accident in 1962 by road workers in a nobleman's tomb in Northern Greece. The name of this papyrus can be traced to the area it was discovered as this excerpt explains: "The papyrus was discovered in 1962 among the remnants of a funeral pyre in one of the tombs in the area, which has also yielded extremely rich artifacts, primarily items of metalware."

Although the scroll, written in 340BC during the reign of Philip II of Macedon, suffered damage in the fire, researchers were able to recover 26 columns of incomplete text.

It talks about the birth of the gods and also contains instructions on religious rites as this excerpt elaborates: "The Derveni Papyrus is a philosophical treatise and an allegorical commentary on an older Orphic poem concerning the birth of the gods. Followers of Orphism were associated with the mythical poet Orpheus and revered the gods Persephone and Dionysus who both went down to the Underworld and managed to return."

It is not clear who wrote the piece but names such as Euthyphron of Prospalta, Diagoras of Melos, or Stesimbrotus of Thasos have been suggested as possible authors.

Currently housed at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Derveni Papyrus was included in UNESCO's Memory of the World Program in 2015. Per reports, UNESCO says that the first book of western philosophical traditions has, “global significance, since it reflects universal human values: the need to explain the world, the desire to belong to a human society with known rules and the agony to confront the end of life.”

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