From crowd sourced grammar fixes to glowing media reports, we have been co-opted into a story profiting a person or persons unknown. #Sappho— Douglas Boin (@austin_hoya) February 5, 2014
Three days in and we haven't moved forward at all. Two new poems have appeared which are generally reckoned to be by the seventh century Greek lyric poet Sappho. Dirk Obbink, author of the article on the discovery of the Sappho poems and university lecturer in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford, has remained resolutely silent for the past week - not answering emails or telephone calls.
Aside from that nothing is known, except perhaps that Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189 when it emerges later this year, is going to get more readers than it has in the past forty-seven years.
Bar Obbink's silence, perhaps the most surprising element has been the blind refusal of many papyrologists to engage in the issue of provenance. Debate on New Sappho, the website set up to discuss the new Sappho papyrus, has become particularly heated over the past few days. Just a few of the comments:
Dr. Obbink is a very experienced and distinguished papyrologist, who should be given time to publish a full article and the benefit of any doubts in the meantime.
Dr. Obbink should be given the benefit of the doubt.
As for private correspondence and the lack of a reply, we ought to remember that Dr Obbink is an extremely busy person... he may be unable to answer every single email straightaway
You catch the drift. All of which might have some credibility if Dr Obbink hadn't taken the time to talk to the media rather than his peers. But even here it should be mentioned that Annalisa Quinn, who writes on books for npr in the US, has complained that Obbink didn't responded to any of her questions on provenance either.
As Justin Walsh, faculty member of art history at Chapman University, says: "It’s been a week. I’m tired of hearing from Obbink’s defenders saying we just need to wait him to give answers to some incredibly simple questions — let’s hear from the man himself."
Until Obbink's vow of silence is broken, we remain in the land of speculation.
The best round-up yesterday was David Meadows' at Rogueclassicism. Read it here.
UPDATE Dirk Obbink's article has appeared in the TLS. It answers some of the questions that have been under discussion. Read it here.