Fragment of Bacchylides, with attached sillybos


A small fragment is all that remains of this 2nd-century CE scroll containing the dithyrambs of the poet Bacchylides (fl. 5th century BCE). It measures a mere 195 x 90 mm and retains text from Bacchylides’ 17th dithyramb.

Unusually, this fragment retains its parchment sillybos, or label, which preserves the title of the work. This label, which would have stuck out from the rolled-up papyrus when housed on a shelf or in a case, would have made it easy for a reader to find the right scroll without having to unroll each one.

Though not as grand as the British Library’s other major Bacchylides papyrus (Papyrus 733), it is nonetheless important for the text of the poems, as it overlaps with a section of the other papyrus which contains some small gaps in this passage.

The papyrus was found at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, as part of the extensive excavations undertaken there in the late 19th century by the Egypt Exploration Society. It was presented to the British Museum in 1914.

Full title:
Fragment of Bacchylides, with attached sillybos
2nd century
Bacchylides (author)
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Papyrus 2056

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Ancient libraries

Article by:
Matthew Nicholls
Scholarship, The makers of Greek manuscripts, Papyri

How were books stored and accessed in the ancient world? Matthew Nicholls explores what the surviving evidence of ancient books can tell us about libraries in antiquity.

Related collection items