WARNING!!! Fragments of Euripides “Palamedes” NOT rediscovered in Jerusalem

On June 21 2016 I wrote a post here to the effect that fragments of the lost play, “Palamedes”, by Euripides had been found in a manuscript in Jerusalem by Dr Felix Albrecht.  This I based on other internet reports, in German, which themselves seem to misunderstand the sitiuation.[1]

But after communicating with Dr Albrecht, I find that this is NOT the case.  No fragments of unknown plays have been found.  But the actual find is itself very exciting, and the technology used is a clear advance.

What are the facts? The manuscript is Cod. Hierosolymitanus Sancti Sepulcri 36, which was written in the 13th century, and contains 556 leaves, on which may be found the text of the Minor Prophets from the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint).  But the manuscript was written on reused parchment.  With the aid of a new multi-spectral imaging system, called “Revelator” (for which see below), some extraordinary results can be achieved!

Some of the parchment came from a now destroyed 11th century copy of The Phoenician Women by Euripides, made as a school copy with explanatory marginalia.  That makes it very old, compared to most of our Greek manuscripts, and it is the most important witness to the text.   This itself is an important discovery.  And there are others, as we shall see.

The manuscript has been known for a century, but it was rediscovered by Felix Albrecht, as part of his work to produce a critical edition of the Greek Old Testament.  He has set up “Project Palamedes” to support this work, and he has also published an article on the subject, which he has kindly sent to me.[2]

The manuscript is located in the library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and comes from the library of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I found an image of a page of the palimpsest here, from the Euripides section.  It shows clearly the marvellous results of this new multi-spectral imaging technique:


Among the under-texts are also portions of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke, from a manuscript of the 8th century.  This is lost in the Greek original, and preserved only in Syriac.  (I remember scanning the English translation of this, years ago, and placing it online!)  This too is a valuable find.

Other finds are pages from: a 7th century copy of Basil of Caesarea’s Asceticon Magna, CPG 2875; 8th century copy of Maximus the Confessor, Capita de Caritate, CPG 7693; an unknown text in 8th century uncial; a 10th c. copy of Gregory Nazianzen’s Carmina Moralia, CPG 3035; a 10th century copy of Isaiah; and some pages in 7th century hand, of unknown content, reused  in the 11th century to contain a school copy of Euripides.

One quaternion of the manuscript managed to end up in St Petersburg.

Nor is this all.  The project is also working on another palimpsest, Codex Parisinus Graecus 1330 from the library of Colbert.  The upper text is a colourful nomocanon, but it reused pages from a majuscule manuscript ca. 500 AD containing a previously unknown ancient commentary on the works of Aristotle.  There are also ancient diagrams of the highest quality.  Any discovery gives us something, although this one will perhaps be more for the students of philosophy.

I also found a bibliography for Felix Albrecht, here, which suggested other finds of unknown material that ought to be better known.

UPDATE:  Dr Albrecht wrote to me as follows:

Concerning Euripides, we did not find any unknown Euripides texts, unfortunately.

However, the Jerusalem palimpsest contains four new discovered pages of known Euripides text with scholia, which seem to be very interesting, because:

  1. The Jerusalem palimpsest is the most important witness to Euripides.
  2. Many folios of the Jerusalem palimpsest, and so the new discovered pages, are re-written twice, i.e. bis rescriptus.

From a scientific point of view, the decipherment of these double palimpsested (bis rescriptus) folios, using a special multispectral imaging system is the most important result of our work.

The multispectral imaging system is called “Revelator” (cf. http://www.mwa-nova.com/revelator.html). The system, which is definitely amazing, allows the user to make images in the full spectrum of light from UV to IR;  it collects the data in a way that the results can be processed in 3D, cf. the following example.

A prototype of that system, invented by Jonathan Albrecht, has been used for the PALAMEDES project.

PALAMEDES volume 1 will be published in 2017: “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Holy Sepulchre Ms 36. A Semi-diplomatic Edition of the Euripides Fragments by Felix Albrecht and Agamemnon Tselikas” (PALAMEDES 1), Athens 2017.

Since few will click through, I do want to say that the “example” included this quite amazing image of a page moving and showing both texts. It is very clear that a considerable technical advance has taken place!


  1. [1]E.g. this one here (translation mine): ‘The “Codex Hierosolymitanus Sancti Sepulcri 36” is located in the library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The manuscript comprises 556 pages and dates from the 13th century; among other things, it contains new, completely unknown texts of Euripides, one of the three great Greek tragedians of antiquity. Of the original over ninety tragedies of Euripides one fifth only has surviveded. The Jerusalem manuscript is one of the main text witnesses of the tradition of Euripides. Although it has long been known, hitherto it has not been explored in its entirety. An analysis of the palimsest revealed that it contains more texts of Euripides by far than previously thought. In addition, the newly discovered passages provide not only material already known, but also unknown material from the pen of Euripides. Moreover, this manuscript contains six patristic or biblical texts, mainly in majuscule, and in the course of processing, it will be decided whether an edition seems sensible.’
  2. [2]Felix Albrecht, “Ein Novum Supplementum Euripideum? Die unbekannten Seiten des Euripides-Palimpsestes Codex Hierosolymitanus Sancti Sepulcri 36”, Aevum 86 (2012), p. 3-27. 

17 thoughts on “WARNING!!! Fragments of Euripides “Palamedes” NOT rediscovered in Jerusalem

  1. The Summary of Albrecht 2012:
    The present article announces the discovery of hitherto unknown Euripides passages in the famous Jerusalem palimpsest Hierosolymitanus Sancti Sepulcri 36. The codex is written on mre than 550 pages of palimpsested parchment. It consists of seven original manuscripts that have never been fully studied. This is the first detailed codicological analysis of the whole codex based on historical photographs which are in the possession of the Septuginta-Unternchmen (Goettingen, Germany). Inter alia, the manuscript offers passages of Euripides which were overlooked by Stephen G. Daitz. Several passages are identified as Phoenissae 730-777; 952-992, but many substantial passages reveal material of Euripides that is so far totally unknown. In addition, the codex contains pages from Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke, written in uncial script, probably from the 8th century. Most of the Greek original of this text was previously thought to be lost. I am currently preparing an edition of all these texts in cooperation with Agamemnon Tselikas and Bernhard Neuschaefer.

  2. Very interesting indeed – wish I could read it! Please keep us imformed. David

  3. As has been noted on Twitter, there appear to have been no signs of life, no news releases, no scholarly publications about this project in the three years since it was announced in Goettingen, although it had eminent patrons and funding from business corporations. I wonder what happened to it. Has it died?

  4. Fascinating! I don’t think I even knew Euripides had written a Palamedes – but the Italian Wikipedia article on him (Palamedes) directs us to Augustus Nauck’s 1889 second edition of Tragicorum graecorum fragmenta for known fragments, and that is scanned in the Internet Archive (the Palamedes section occupying pages 541-46).

  5. Thank you JB – I had not picked up on this. Perhaps I should drop the main man an email…

    And thank you for your wonderful post that led me to this story.

  6. Pity they aren’t digitizing the Jerusalem Codex Hagiou Taphou (or Ἁγίου Τάφου) 054 from the same library. Having some up to date, high resolution images,, put online for all to see, would be sweet.

    Contains the Epistle of Barnabas, First Epistle of Clement, Second Epistle of Clement, the Didache and Ignatius of Antioch (long rec.)

  7. I’m not surprised that a text of Euripides survived until the 11 th century before it was lost. There is a constant debate among classists about how much Greek literature survived into Medieval times.
    The 4th Crusade and the Capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 probably destroyed more ancient literature than most suspect.
    The tragic thing is that a text like Palemedes of Euripides survived for 1500 years from when it was written but was then lost a mere 400 years before the invention of printing.

  8. @Edward: I think it will come. All these libraries will digitise everything eventually. These are exciting times!

    @Stefano: the big loss of literature is in 1204, when the renegade army hired for the 4th crusade sacked Constantinople. Photius before then has masses of material that is never referred to again. The main loss in 1453 is the complete Diodorus Siculus held in the imperial palace. Doubtless there were others. But this story highlights once again the importance of palimpsests.

  9. Edward,

    Panagiou Taphou 54 is available from microfilm from US Library of Congress. Entire codex.

    Good facsimiles of Didache and 1 Clement?? in Harris and another volume which I forget(am working from faded memory here but a bit of googling will find it for you). The volumes are on archive.org.

  10. Any Classical Armenian readers here?
    Is anyone able confirm that this verse from Is 24:16 in Armenian

    Խորհուրդ իմ ինձ, խորհուրդ իմ ինձ եւ իմոցն.

    means ‘my mystery for me, my mystery for me, and for mine’ (that’s my attempt, but I know absolutely no Armenian so I could be way off)

    If anyone knows the equivalent in the Syriac Peshitta, I would also be grateful. I think there it is just ‘my mystery for me, my mystery for me.’

    Just posting this random comment given I know Roger has some very erudite readers.

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