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Sophocles' Trackers

This papyrus fragment from the British Library contains the remains of lines 297–348 of Sophocles' Trackers (about 440–420 B.C.), the second most completely preserved Greek satyr play.

Satyr plays are named for their chorus of satyrs, the irreverent human-horse companions of Dionysos. Although arousing laughter, satyr plays are not comedies. They subvert the serious world of myth and epic by mixing a bawdy satyr chorus with important events of the gods and heroes.

The Trackers tells of the search for Apollo's stolen cattle by a group of satyrs; Hermes, the messenger of the gods, is discovered to be the thief. This fragment includes an exchange between the nymph Kyllene (Hermes' nurse) and the satyrs, who, terrified by a mysterious noise, have begun to shout and stamp their feet. Kyllene explains that the noise is the sound of an instrument made by Hermes from tortoiseshell and cowhide. This detail provides the satyrs with a vital clue; they suspect that the hide came from one of Apollo's cows. The play probably ended with Hermes giving his musical invention, the lyre, to Apollo.

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Fragment of The Trackers by Sophocles
Roman, A.D. 175–200; found in Oxyrhynchus (present-day El-Bahnasa, Egypt)
Papyrus, 9 1/8 x 15 1/16 x 3/8 in. (23.1 x 38.2 x .9 cm)
The British Library, London, England, Pap.2068
© British Library Board (Papyrus 2098)

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