On Noble Splendor

I’ve been reading Betz’ collection of translations from the Greek Magical Papyri. As part of his discussion of the scholarly climate at the very beginning of the 20th century, Betz quotes Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff as saying “I once heard a well-known scholar complain that these papyri were found because they deprived antiquity of the noble splendor of classicism. [Betz’ translation]”
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff went on to say, “That they did so is unquestionable, but I am glad for that. I do not want to admire my Greeks but understand them, so that I can judge them fairly. [my translation]”
I worry that some of the concern about “secular” biblical study is really about depriving the antiquity of the Bible of its supposed noble splendor. But I do not want to admire my Hebrews but understand them, so that I can judge them fairly.

Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), xliii, li n. 31

2 thoughts on “On Noble Splendor”

  1. Thank you very much indeed for this post and especially for the link. I was unaware of the translation, and it will see much more attention by being available thus.
    The “under-literature” of antiquity is key to understanding much that perhaps may mislead us in ancient texts. It forms a background that few of us understand. This is regrettable, in my view.

  2. Roger,
    I’m glad you enjoyed post and the link. This is among the most fascinated stuff I’ve ever read. While it’s not in the mainstream of my own research interests, it is an important supplement. One can not live by Akkadian omen texts alone! But in addition to that, many of these texts are just plan fun.

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