Classics and Papyrology

Papyrology in the United States began at the University of Chicago with the acquisition of a small collection of Greek papyri from Egypt by Edgar J. Goodspeed in 1898. It was the great Chicago Egyptologist James H. Breasted who facilitated this purchase; thus, a strong sense of cooperation between Greek papyrology and Egyptology was evident at Chicago from the beginning. In addition to the Goodspeed papyri, now housed at the Regenstein library, the Oriental Institute houses several texts from the P. Oxyrhynchus collection, dispersed here after Grenfell and Hunt published them, and also owns a large collection of unpublished Greek ostraca. At present, papyrology at Chicago is characterized by a strong interdisciplinary focus, with students from the Classics Department, the Divinity School, the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, and NELC/Oriental Institute participating in its study.


Recently taught courses include:

  • Greek Literature in the Papyri (Sofia Torallas Tovar)
  • Introduction to Papyrology (Martinez)
  • Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds (Martinez)
  • Demotic Legal Texts (Johnson)
  • Demotic Historical Texts(Johnson)
  • Coptic Documentary Texts (Johnson)
  • Greek Magical Papyri and Early Christianity (Betz and Faraone)
  • Orphic Documents and Early Christianity (Faraone and Martinez)
  • Ancient Epistolary Literature (Klauck)
  • The Chicago Archaic Gospel of Mark (Mitchell)


Classics Department:

  • Christopher Faraone is author of Ancient Greek Love Magic (1999), and co-editor of Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives (2003).
  • David Martinez is author of P. Michigan XVI: A Greek Love Charm from Egypt (1991) and P. Michigan XIX: Baptized for Our Sakes: A Leather Trisagion from Egypt (2003). He has published numerous studies of ancient magical texts, including the Greek magical papyri. (2000). He founded and operates a yearly program unit under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature, called "Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds."
  • Sofía Torallas Tovar is author (with Juan Gil) of Hadrianus. P.Monts.Roca III (Barcelona, 2010), of Biblica Coptica Montserratensia. P.Monts.Roca II (Barcelona, 2007) and (with Klaas A. Worp) of To the Origins of Greek Stenography. P.Monts.Roca I (Barcelona, 2006). She works on Latin, Greek and Coptic sources.

NELC/Oriental Institute:

  • Janet Johnson is author of Thus Wrote 'Onchsheshonqy: An Introductory Grammar of Demotic (2nd ed. 1991); The Demotic Verbal System, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (1977); and editor of Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine (and Beyond) (1992) and the Chicago Demotic Dictionary (forthcoming).
  • Brian Muhs is Is among others author of Tax Receipts, Taxpayers, and Taxes in Early Ptolemaic Thebes (Chicago, 2005) and is preparing a new synthetic book on the ancient Egyptian economy.

NTECL/Divinity School:

Three distinguished Biblical scholars of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and the Divinity School, Hans Dieter Betz (emeritus; still active), Hans-Josef Klauck, and Margaret Mitchell, are all interested in various aspects of the relationship of papyrology and early Christianity.


Recent Chicago Graduates who did papyrological dissertations, Joseph Manning (NELC 1992) and Todd Hickey (History 2001) now serve on the faculties of Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively.


Two Chicago graduate students have recently completed dissertations on papyrological subjects. Ari Bryen (Classics/PAMW): "Violence, Law, and Society in Roman and Byzantine Egypt," and Philip Venticinque (Classics/PAMW): "Common Causes: the Social World of Guilds and Associations in Roman and Late Antique Egypt."

Research Projects

Transmission of Magical Knowledge in Antiquity: the Papyrus Magical Handbooks in Context (lead by Christopher Faraone and Sofia Torallas Tovar)