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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

whole is correspondingly skewed. His goal is thus to paint a new, perhaps completely different, picture of the classical Greek comedy. Antique Authors Are Simply Forgotten The comedies, which are only preserved in fragmentary form, were written between 400 BC and the birth of Christ. The research group plans not only to reconstruct the content of these works and translate them, but also to find out when and why they were lost. Contrary to popu- lar belief, explains Zimmermann, the works were not lost due to the destruction of libraries by fire but to developments in cultural policy. By study- ing documents of the time, the philologists can determine when an author was still being quoted in schools, speeches, and daily life and recon- struct the point at which he was evidently no lon- ger known. This gives the researchers an over- view of the comedies themselves as well as insight into the cultural and educational policy of the times. The work resembles the task of completing a difficult puzzle: The classical philologists have to analyze and classify the fragments before they can interpret and translate them. In the course of their work, they encounter three different types of fragments: The first type consists of short ­textual allusions, sometimes consisting only of single words or verses, from classical authors quoting directly from the original works. The sec- ond type of fragment is papyri from the time in which the comedies were written, and the third is so-called palimpsests, parchment manuscripts in which – since parchment was very expensive and difficult to produce – the original text has been scratched out and overwritten with a new text, often with Christian content. The overwrit- ten text can be made visible again with the help of modern laser technology. International re- search teams are currently combing through ­libraries around the world in search of hidden texts preserved in this way. They have already discovered the ending of one comedy and the beginning of another. The content of both of the fragments is now being analyzed in Freiburg. Rolls of Papyrus from the Garbage Dump However, Zimmermann procured most of the textual sources for his research project at the British Museum in London, England, which hous- es the world’s largest collection of ancient com- edy fragments – antique rolls of papyrus that British researchers found while excavating an old garbage dump in Egypt in 1877. The docu- ments were conserved in dry sand and were thus still legible. These fragments also included the previously unknown comedy Dyskolos (“The Grouch”) by Menander, preserved in its entirety on an entire roll. A literature enthusiast bought it and allowed it to be published for the first time in 1954. The other papyrus manuscripts have been edited and published as well. The researchers in Freiburg have access to the fragments on the Internet and in volumes being published periodi- cally. By travelling to England, they can also work directly with the originals. Zimmermann Menander, depicted here on a wall painting from Pompey, and Aristophanes are the only poets from ancient Greece from whom we possess complete comedies. Photo: Irelli et al. (Ed.) (1990): Pompejanische Wandmalerei. Stuttgart (Taf. 33) “Aristophanes and Menander used to be the only two known authors, but now we know the names of 258 Greek comic poets” 18