Representations of writing tools and materials on Phrygian door stelae – and a special kind of codex

Grüll Tibor

Representations of writing materials on Roman funerary monuments. Text, image, message. International conference, Pécs

ABSTARCT: Phrygia developed a unique epigraphic culture during the imperial period (second‒fourth centuries C.E.). One of its distinct features is the countless representations of writing tools (styluses, stylus-/pen-cases, inkwells, etc.) and writing materials (scrolls, writing tablets, codices, etc.) on funeral monuments. Among these representations codices appear repeatedly, but not in the form we are accustomed to in the west (multiple writing tablets bound together at the longitudinal sides), but in a very special form. These Phrygian codices are represented with a lock—such as that seen on book-cases (capsae) and, occasionally, on polyptichs as well—as well as with a “horn” and a “hinge” along their longitudinal side. The function of these has not been clarified in the research so far, although the “horn” also appears either on scrolls or codices in Campanian wall paintings. At the National Museum of Rome at the Baths of Diocletian there is a special codex plumbeus (the so-called “Libro Basilidiano”, inv.-no. 65036) that can be compared to Phrygian representations. The lead cover of this 9.5 cm high and 7.5 cm wide gnostic codex was found in an ancient sarcophagus in the sixteenth century. Although there is no lock on it, the “hinge” running along the longitudinal side is characteristic. This short presentation raises more questions than it answers. Is it possible that this is the only surviving codex from ancient times that we see on the tombs of Phrygia? Why any other specimens of such covers did not survive in the Nag Hammadi collection? Would this codex plumbeus be the missing link in the history of codices?

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