Diggers begin Herculaneum task of finding masterpieces lost to volcano

Archaeologists have resumed their search for a library of Greek and Latin masterpieces that is thought to lie under volcanic rock at the ancient Roman site of Herculaneum.

The scrolls, which have been called the holy grail of classical literature, are thought to have been lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, burying the wealthy Roman city of Herculaneum and neighbouring Pompeii.

Previous digs have unearthed classical works at a building now known as the Villa of the Papyri, thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was known to be a lover of poetry.

The villa was found by chance in the 18th century by engineers digging a well shaft. Tunnels bored into the rock brought to light stunning ancient sculptures — now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples — and 1,800 carbonised papyrus scrolls. The writings were mainly works by the Epicurean Greek philosopher Philodemus, who was part of Piso’s entourage.


2 comments on “Herculaneum

  1. extremepress says:

    Let us hope that these discoveries will made part of the public domain. It is frustrating that often these records are not put to public access on the internet. I would greatly love to read some translated works on this matter. Sadly most of the great ancient libraries were burned and books burnt by Christian fanatics. Will be a great insight(hopefully) into the religious beliefs of the people in that locality. Would be great if texts describing Epicurean mysteries in more detail is amongst them.

  2. saesferd says:

    Sadly the scrolls that have been found appear to be very fragmentary. A little bit more information, a website: http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/classics/philodemus/philhome.htm – the Philodemus Project, with links to pictures of the scrolls.

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