John T. Quinn, assistant professor of classics at Hope College, has been selected to participate in a Summer Seminar funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities that will be held at Columbia University in New York City.
The seminar, "Society and Culture in Roman Egypt,"
will run during June and July under the leadership of
Professor Roger Bagnall of Columbia. The seminar's
participants, numbering about a dozen, are college teachers
of ancient history, ancient languages, the New Testament and
The seminar will explore life in Egypt under the
Roman Empire, from 31 BC to the end of the fifth century AD.
Archaeology and literature will provide some of the
materials for study, but most of the attention will center
on papyrology, the study of ancient writing on paper made
from papyrus. According to Quinn, Egypt's dry climate has
ensured that many documents on paper, from personal letters
to government memoranda, survived in ancient trash pits. An
important goal of the seminar as a whole is to translate,
and provide commentary on, the extant letters written by
women in Roman Egypt.
In addition, Quinn will be working on his own
research project: locating papyrological evidence for the
trade between Rome and Aksum, the ancient Ethiopian kingdom
beyond, but allied to, the Roman Empire. Since Egypt lies
on both trade routes to Aksum (the Red Sea and the Nile
River), Quinn hopes to find mention of the trade in papyrus
documents such as tax records and merchants' letters home to
The written evidence will, Quinn hopes, provide
valuable details on the trade, which is well-attested by
archaeological finds in both Egypt and Ethiopia.
Quinn has been a member of the Hope faculty since
1995. He teaches Latin, as well as the two major languages
of Roman Egypt: Greek and Coptic (Egyptian). He expects
his work on Roman Egypt and Aksumite Ethiopia to become a
part of his "Cultural Heritage" core curriculum course.