January 27, 2005

Herculaneum and the Lost Works of Epicurus

A recent article from the Sunday Times gives an update on the current status of the uncovered library in Herculaneum where numerous Greek and Latin texts have been preserved under the ashes of Vesuvius and are being read with the use of modern technology. Worth reading in its entirety, but what struck me in particular was this sentence:
Apart from the texts of Philodemus, hundreds of other lost works of Greek philosophy — including half of Epicurus’s entire opus, missing for 2,300 years — have been rediscovered.
Epicurus, a 4th c. BC Athenian philosopher was reputed to have written more than 300 books (more properly scrolls, each of our own books being contained in several scrolls) none of which survive in its entirety. Scraps of the Epicurean corpus are available online and give tantalizing hints about the philosophy of the man who more than anyone else symbolized the culmination of the naturalistic tradition of Greek philosophy. This new discovery and eventual publication of the lost works of Epicurus will eventually help us appreciate a tradition which stood opposed to that of Plato and Aristotle for centuries after the death of its founder.

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