Detail. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, Timotheos, Die Perser (1903)

The Timotheus of Miletus Papyrus

The book Timotheos, Die Perser, published by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff in 1903, is about papyrus fragments of Miletus poet and musician Timotheos (Timotheus) that was discovered in the Abusir region in Egypt, describing the Sea Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, in which the Persians were defeated.

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, Timotheos, Die Perser (1903)
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, Timotheos, Die Perser (1903)

The text includes the speech of the Persian King Xerxes, the tragicomic speech of a Phrygian, his recounts about his own poetry and music, and a few other topics, as well as a prayer to Apollo. It is claimed that the papyrus, dated to the 4th century BC, had two important features:

First, the Timotheos of Miletus papyrus is likely to be the oldest surviving Hellenic script among Egyptian papyri. It is said to be the oldest of the Greek manuscripts.

Another feature of this script is the claim that it is one of the first examples of sans-serif script with square monoline letters (Morison 1972).

It may be worthwhile to take a more cautious approach to this latter idea, because alongside Morison’s successful work in the field, there are also his arguments that have had little resonance in paleographic circles, such that serif fonts may have emerged from the notch shapes in cuneiform, and the first example of this is an Alexander the Great inscription.

Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The fragments are currently preserved in the Staatliches Museum Berlin, and its hi-res images are available online for limited research use.