Thursday, February 13, 2014


A Hadrian-era school has been unearthed at an oasis in Egypt which could have been the location where the Emperor and Antinous slew a man-eating lion.

Archaeologists working in the Dakhla Oasis 300 km west of the Nile called the discovery historic because the Egyptians in the Roman era seldom had buildings solely devoted to education. Places of learning were incorporated into temples, palaces or homes.

At Dakhla, however, a proper "school house" accommodated rows of pupils with walls adorned with educational passages from Greek literature for pupils to copy onto their wax tablets.

The 1,700-year-old school's walls even show a text from Homer's "The Odyssey" in the original Greek which demonstrates use of anti-depressants.

The school — which contains benches that students could sit on to read, or stand on and write on the walls — dates back to a time when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt, and Greek was widely spoken.

In use for less than 20 years, the school structure eventually became part of a large house that contained colorful art, including images of the Olympian gods, the researchers said.

In the literary passage, Helen of Troy, for whom the Trojan War had been fought, gives her guests a potion that "takes away grief and anger, and brings forgetfulness of every ill," the text reads. 

"Whoever should drink this down when it is mixed in the bowl would not let fall a tear down his cheek in the course of that day at least. Now Copy." 

The words "Now Copy" appear to indicate the students should copy the passage in some way. 

Ancient records say that some people believed this passage had a magical quality to it that could calm young people, Raffaella Cribiore, a professor at New York University, wrote in the German Egyptological journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

Although archaeologists know of another ancient school in Egypt — a university in Alexandria — the school at Amheida is unique because it was found with texts on its walls, Cribiore said. 

The texts are "further proof that teaching and learning took place there, and confirm that they belong to the only building so far discovered from antiquity that was certainly a school and showed educational activities," Cribiore wrote..

Hadrian and Antinous slew a man-eating lion in Egypt in the year 130 AD. While the exact location has never been determined, it is thought that the beast lurked in one of the sprawling oases west of the Nile ... such as the Dakhla Oasis.

Read the full story at LIVESCIENCE.COM.

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