Some notes on the Great Paris spell-book

I’m looking at Preisendanz’ edition of the Greek magical papyri.  I thought some notes on one of them, PGM IV, also known as the great magical book, or the great spell-book, might be useful.  This is the codex that contains the so-called Mithras liturgy — in reality merely a spell-ritual.

The so-called “great Paris magical papyrus”, Bibl. nat. suppl. gr. 574.  A papyrus book of 36 leaves, written on both sides.  Foll. 1r, 3v, 16 and 36r are blank, described in the auction “Catalogue d’une collection d’antiquites egyptiennes par M. Francois Lenormant (Paris, Moulde et Renou 1857) Pap. IV” under No. 1073 as “manuscrit sur feuilles de papyrus pliees en livre, formant 33 feuillets ecrits de deux cotes.”  The auction catalogue number is still written on fol. 1r, together with the Anastasi number 1073.

The manufacturer of the book had 18 double sheets, which he folded in order to make the book.  The small Coptic item on page 1 may be a later addition.  [The sheets have become disarranged].  The leaves vary in size between 30.5cm and 27cm high, 13 and 9.5cm wide.  Margins have been left on all sides.

C. Wessely suggests that the copyist wrote during the fourth century AD, and more towards 300 than 400 AD, when the technology to make such papyrus codices was available.  See also Wiener Studien 8, 1886, p.189, which suggests the period of Tertullian, an origin of Upper Egypt, in Herakleopolis.  Dieterich felt the time of Diocletian was the terminus ante quem, and that the “liturgy” must belong to the period when Mithras was most in vogue.  Adolf Deissmann in Light from the ancient East 217-225 placed the composition of lines 2993-3086 before the fall of Jerusalem and the reference to the emperor in 2448 as referring to Hadrian.

E. Miller published some portions of the hymns: Melanges de Litterature grecque (1868),437-458.

It would be nice to know more up-to-date information on this subject.


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