Skip to comments.In search of Western civilisation's lost classics
Posted on 08/11/2008 1:45:29 PM PDT by LibWhacker
The unique library of the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, buried beneath lava by Vesuvius's eruption in AD79, is slowly revealing its long-held secrets
STORED in a sky-lit reading room on the top floor of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples are the charred remains of the only library to survive from classical antiquity. The ancient world's other great book collections -- at Athens, Alexandria and Rome -- all perished in the chaos of the centuries. But the library of the Villa of the Papyri was conserved, paradoxically, by an act of destruction.
Lying to the northwest of ancient Herculaneum, this sumptuous seaside mansion was buried beneath 30m of petrified volcanic mud during the catastrophic eruption of Mt Vesuvius on August 24, AD79.
(Excerpt) Read more at theaustralian.news.com.au ...
They are editing and throwing out a lot more recent classics like Huck Finn. All because of political correctness religion.
Wonderful post and well worth the read. Fine writing, too. Thanks!
What happens when they find all those lost Greek tragedies? Will we find the authors were more repetitive then they seemed to our ancestors? Will we think better of the dramatists for their inventiveness in coming up with so many plots, or will we think less of the existing works, seeing them as just more of the same?
To answer your questions, yes.
Because modern literary criticism (including that of the Classics) is more about the critic than the author.
So there will be a critic to represent every one of your possible reactions.
Victor Davis Hanson excluded, of course, and a few others.
. . .
"Epicurus's philosophy exercised so widespread an influence that for a long time it was touch and go whether Christianity might not have to give way before it," writes Lawrence Durrell in a tone of lament.
Being told to do whatever you want and that there is no God to to fear is as attractive to people today as it was in Rome. It's the same ancient battle.
There are two mysteries of the ancients that I want to see resolved before I die:
1. Open the tomb of Qin She Huang, the first emperor of China whose terracotta army still stands guard outside his tomb.
2. Open, conserve and decipher the Herculaneum library that may contain all those unknown books from the ancient world.
Reminds me of the mind-blowing work they did with the Dead Sea Scrolls. There was a pile of fragments, most the size of confetti, that were also recovered. Since the Scrolls were made out of sheepskin, they did DNA tests on every scrap and seperated out the "pages". Then they began to piece them together - and succeeded. History owes a lot to folks like that.
Getting words out of those sticks of charcoal seemed an impossible task until scientists at Brigham Young University (BYU), in Utah, devised a revolutionary new multi-spectral imaging technology.
The technology, originally developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab to study planet surfaces, can distinguish microscopic variations in the chemical composition of substances such as ink on the burned scroll parchment and turn them into clear images.
"Where conventional photography has failed, multi-spectral imaging, with its uniquely designed filter system and a modified digital camera, has provided readable images of these carbonized scrolls. Basically, we are able to take out the blackness of the papyri and enhance the ink because they have different reflective characteristics," Steven Booras, imaging project manager of the BYU Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, said.
Instead of taking two or three weeks to read a few letters on small, frail scrolls, the new technology, described in the recent documentary Out of the Ashes: Recovering the Lost Library of Herculaneum, allows scholars to read the papyri very easily. Text is visible where no ink was previously detected.
"We are finding new readings on almost any papyri we are looking at. As long as the page itself is not broken, we can expect to find some dramatic improvement," Roger Macfarlane, director of the BYU Herculaneum Papyri Project, said.
Among the works scholars hope to read using the new technology are Aristotle's lost 30 dialogues, philosophical work by Epicurus, erotic poems by Philodemus, Virgilius' lost eclogue, scientific work by Archimedes and lesbian poetry by Sappho.
After imaging more than 10,000 scroll fragments, the BYU team is now working to create a permanent digital library of the papyri and make it available on the Internet.
"Scholars around the world will be able to sit in front of their computers and study these papyri," Macfarlane said.
A carbonized scroll fragment is read under a microscope at the National Library in Naples, Italy.
Picture: Mark Philbrick/Brigham Young University/courtesy Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples, Italy |
"Modern-day Ercolano sits on top of it. Several buildings, including the town hall, would have to be pulled down to make way for the digging," Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, Pompeii's archaeological superintendent, said.
Villa of the Papyri under excavation
Scientists use MRI at Kadlec to look at ancient Roman scrolls
Tri-City Herald | Thursday, Jul. 10, 2008 | Sara Schilling
Posted on 07/11/2008 9:39:52 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Thanks LibWhacker for the topic.
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Epicurus did not tell people to do whatever they want. Rather his philosphy sounds rather like Bhuddism, with it’s emphasis on rampant desire as a source of unhappiness. It sounds as if he favored simple, low consumption living. The article points out that the use that was made of his name, epicurian, is the antithesis of his viewpoint.
All true. But when you eliminate any reason to reign in rampant desire, other than personal preference, most people (other than philosophers and their students) take that as license to do whatever they want. You see the symptoms of that in Rome (although Epicurianism may have been a symptom of existing sickness in Rome rather than a cause) and you see the same thing in America and Western Europe (largely, imho, as a result of secular humanism).
The parallel is actually quite remarkable. Philosophical secular humanists today all have systems that they think provide a non-religious reason to behave properly. That may work for them and their disciples; but in society at large, the message is "do whatever you want" because there is no reason not to. But perhaps they too (like Epicurians) are just a symptom (not a cause) of the degeneration of our culture caused by wealth, idle time, and endless nattering about feelings and other unimportant things by folks like Oprah.
It won’t make much difference. Present day kids aren’t reading the classics that have been preserved.
Many of them are now available as audiobooks ;-)
Wow, thank you for the photos.
One of my talents generally unknown to FReepers is that I can read ancient Greek (with the help of my Lexicon). However, I took one look at that carbonized scroll and now I am seriously considering going back to only reading modern comic books. It will be truly a miracle if they can recover the writings on that scroll —and I hope they do!
“When you eliminate any reason to reign in rampant desire, other than personal preference, most people (other than philosophers and their students) take that as license to do whatever they want.”
The best prevention of unreasoned greed is to provide the young child with love, safety, and community. This can be done very well in a religious community, but as you point out a philosophically based community can create similar results. Personally, I think it is better to do the right thing because greed, lack of consideration, etc. have been reasoned to be undesirable. I do not think the idea of doing the right thing because God will be angry is as healthy. No more than doing the right thing because dad will beat the s*** out of you if you don’t.
Actually the better self-discipline seems to result from very mild punishment or disapproval from a loved authority figure. When the child is about to repeat the undesired activity, they feel vaguely uncomfortable and don’t do it. Because the reproof was mild they don’t remember it, whereas they would remember a beating and perhaps not do it then, but when older and no longer with the beater. This is called “cognitive dissonance”.
If there is a God and He will be angry, it really doesn't matter what we think about it, does it? On the other hand, whether we accept His grace and forgiveness does.
Personally, my dislike of how things were set up by God kept me for years from accepting His grace and forgiveness. And I can't say that I like the setup even now. Things would certainly be different were I God. But then, things would have been a lot different when I was 8 had I, not my father, gotten to set the rules. I suspect the outcome would not have been good.
In any event, I usually accept things as they are today, not as I would have them. Accepting things the way they are seems to me, in the end, to be only reasoned course of behavior.
But once they get their act together, you’ll be able to read it on line! Ain’t the ‘net great?
I weep with joy.
also of interest:
New life given to ancient Egyptian texts stored at Stanford for decades
Stanford University | July 23, 2008 | Adam Gorlick
Posted on 07/24/2008 8:09:38 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Great isn’t it? Perhaps SunkenCiv, who is always on top of these things can let us know when they are published on the net.
I have the feeling that may be quite a while though. Naples is run like an episode of the Keystone Cops; how soon they can resolve the fact that the Villa of the Papyri lies under the town of Ercolano, and modern buildings will have to razed to accomplish this remains to be seen.
The main problem with these carbonized scrolls is, the text was written with pencils, meaning drawn with graphite, a form of carbon, and, well... ;’)
Great that you can read ancient Greek though, I’m jottin’ that down...
I’m barely on top of my own daily life, but I’ll be happy to keep an eye on this. My prediction is, when the last of the known scrolls is read, the last sentence will break off, followed, in parentheses, with “continued on next scroll, look in the downstairs library”. ;’)
[snip] ...founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus — about whom very little is known — Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it quite different from “hedonism” as it is commonly understood. [end]
LOL ... or we’ll hear, “Oh that scroll was checked out in AD77, and we can’t find the borrower.” [I know it was a private library]; we can hope for amnesty day.
Thanks SC love your posts! ;)
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