The Charioteer Papyrus (London, Egypt Exploration Society, s.n.) is a 5th-century fragment of an illustration from an unknown work of literature. It is one of the finest surviving fragments of ancient book illustration. Unlike other surviving illustrated fragments of papyrus, such as the Romance Papyrus and the Heracles Papyrus, which have illustrations that are little more than mere sketches, the Charioteer Papyrus is sensitively drawn and finely colored. It shows portions of six charioteers in the red or green tunics of their factions. It is unlikely that it served as an illustration for the chariot race at the games at the funeral of Patroclus in the Iliad, since the number of charioteers is wrong.
It undoubtedly served an illustration for a literary work and was once bound as a codex. There are only a few letters of text on the illustrated side of the fragment, but on the back are the first letters of thirteen lines of writing. There is not enough to identify the work. The language and alphabet are Greek, and the style might indicate an origin in Egypt.
- Weitzmann, Kurt, ed., Age of spirituality : late antique and early Christian art, third to seventh century, no. 93, 1979, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 9780870991790; full text available online from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries