The recent discovery of Greek hexameters in a palimpsest from the Monastery of St. Catharine in Sinai (Sin. ar. NF 66) has introduced a fascinating new piece of the puzzle for scholars of ancient Greek mythology studying the tales of the god Dionysos. Questions abound regarding this mysterious and fragmentary text, which includes new twists on the less frequently attested stories of the childhood of Dionysos, including his relations with Aphrodite and his divine mother, Persephone, as well as his grisly dismemberment at the hands of the minions of his step-mother, Hera. While these hexameter verses on Dionysos bear some resemblance to the late antique epic of Nonnos, the Dionysiaka, some scholars have speculated that this palimpsest text comes from the lost collection of Orphic Rhapsodies, which would make it the first direct witness to the poetry attributed to the mythical poetry Orpheus, known currently only from quotations preserved in other ancient authors. The palimpsest text does show some similarities with features of the Orphic Hymns, an extant collection of poetry likewise attributed to Orpheus, and the palimpsest may help illuminate these notoriously obscure and difficult hymns, while the Hymns may help to fill in the gaps in the fragmentary palimpsest text.

This conference at Bryn Mawr College provides an opportunity to bring together scholars from across the globe to explore this new and exciting text. Radcliffe Edmonds (Bryn Mawr College), in conjunction with Luisina Abrach (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and Anne-France Morand (Université Laval, Québec) are convening a group of scholars to discuss the interpretation of a variety of aspects of the scenes in this text. The conference is taking place at Bryn Mawr College over two days, March 1 and 2, 2024, but the paper sessions will be open to remote audiences via Zoom.

For more information about St.Catherine's Monastery and the Sinai Palimpsests Project click here

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