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Papyrology and the Mediterranean world

Discover Papyrology, its methodological challenges and the study of the multicultural society of the Greco-Roman Egypt

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
2 January 2024 - 21 June 2024

The course seeks to train Masters and PhD students in the study of documents of the Greco-Roman Egypt. The tens of thousands of papyri discovered in Egypt constitute an incomparably rich source on the history of Egypt, from the conquest of Alexander the Great at the end of the 4th century BCE to the Arab conquest in the mid-7th century CE.

In concrete terms, the papyri provide us with texts, mainly Greek, but also in Egyptian, of a private nature: letters, contracts, lists etc., all documents that have disappeared in the rest of the Mediterranean basin and that were only preserved in Egypt - thanks to the country's exceptionally hot and dry climate. But these tens of thousands of documents also need to be deciphered and put back into the context in which they were produced: i.e. the multicultural world of Greco-Roman Egypt, a country administered by Greek settlers in an African land, which was an integral and constitutive part of the Mediterranean world, first as an Hellenistic kingdom, later as a province of the Roman and Byzantine Empire and finally of the Arab-Muslim caliphate.

The course aims to train students in papyrology and its issues through both theory and practice. Students will first follow a cycle of ten two-hour lessons, which will consist of lectures devoted to a particular theme, in order to provide students with the necessary theoretical and conceptual foundations. The physical mobility will build on this knowledge and focus on practice. Each student will be given a fragment of papyrus from the Brussels collection to study, edit, analyse and interpret, with the help of the teachers.

Main topics addressed

• The materiality of papyri

• The diversity of textual papyrological genres

• The papyrology and the History of Greco-Roman Egypt

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will have been able to learn about papyrology as a discipline particularly promising in the field of classical philology and ancient history, its methods and its issues, which are crucial when studying a complex multicultural society such as that of Greco-Roman Egypt.

Dates: 2 January - 21 June 2024 Total workload: 180 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 6*
Location: Brussels, Belgium Language: English (B2) 

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

17 to 21 June 2024

During the physical mobility sesion, each student will be given a fragment of papyrus from the Brussels collection to study, edit, analyse and interpret with the help of the teachers. The mobility days will include practical lessons in the morning and practical work in the afternoon. These are:

1. How to read a papyrus?

2. How to edit a papyrus? And what do you mention in an apparatus criticus?

3. How to find the bibliography and how to use online tools?

4. How to interprete a papyrus?

5. How to present a scientific edition?

Virtual part

Ten online meetings of 2 hours each will take place during the virtual part of the course: 

  • 14 February 2024: The materiality of papyri, with a focus on letter writing
  • 21 February 2024: Palaeography and the papyri
  • 28 February 2024: The history of papyrology and the development of collections
  • 6 March 2024: Rhetorical strategies in the Greek papyrus letters and petitions
  • 20 March 2024: Literary papyrology - Greek, Latin, Coptic
  • 27 March 2024: Papyrology and History of the Roman Empire
  • 24 April 2024: The Role of women in the society an economy of Roman Egypt
  • 15 May 2024: Divination and religion in Greco-Roman Egypt
  • 22 May 2024: Introduction to Coptic and Arabic papyrology for hellenists
  • 29 May 2024: Bilingual documents

Compulsory readings will be indicated to students before and after each lesson.


This course is open to Master's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities enrolled in Papyrology and/ or Classical Studies.

Participants should have a good level of written and spoken English, as well as critical thinking, creativity, writing and communication skills. 

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

This course is also open to students with the same academic profile, who are enrolled at a CIVIS strategic partner university in Africa. Please check here if you can apply and if this particular course is open to applications from your university. Successful applicants will receive an Erasmus+ grant, covering travel and subsistence costs during their stay. Applicants should be willing to extend their stay at the host university for 1-3 weeks for additional research and/ or training purposes.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 30 September 2023 with the following documents:

  • Motivation letter
  • CV

Applications will be evaluated according to the quality of the motivation letter and the command of Ancient Greek language.



At the end of the physical mobility part, the students will have to produce an essay on the papyrus they have been given to study. The quality of the text, the accuracy of the papyrological edition and the soundness of the historical and linguistic interpretation of the document are the main elements to be evaluated. 

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

The main instructors for this course are Alain Delattre (professor of Greek Literature and Papyrology at the Université libre de Bruxelles), Amphilochios Papathomas (professor of Papyrology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) and Agostino Soldati (professor of Papyrology and Christian Literature at the Sapienza Università di Roma).

Other professors involved:

  • NKUA: Salvatore Costanza, Aikaterini Koroli, Marianna Thoma, Antonia Sarri;
  • SUR: Daniele Bianconi, Raffaele Luiselli;
  • ULB: Paul Heilporn, Alain Martin, Naïm Vanthieghem.