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>>>ANSA/Herculaneum papyri reveal Plato's burial place

>>>ANSA/Herculaneum papyri reveal Plato's burial place

And shed light on last hours of Greek philosopher's life

ROME, 23 April 2024, 19:01

ANSA English Desk



The Herculaneum papyri have revealed the location of Plato's burial place in the Platonic Academy in Athens, as well as shedding fresh light on his last few hours of life, an Italian researcher said on Tuesday.
    The Herculaneum papyri are more than 1,800 papyrus scrolls discovered in the 18th century in the Villa of the Papyri in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, which were carbonized when the villa was hit by the 79 AD Mount Vesuvius eruption that also destroyed Pompeii.
    Reading the scrolls is extremely difficult and carries risks of destroying them. They are now being deciphered thanks to new technology, bringing hopes of rediscovering lost ancient classical texts.
    The location of Plato's burial place was contained in thousands of new words and differently read words in papyrus on the history of the Academy by Philodemus of Gadara, an Epicurean philosopher and poet who lived in Herculaneum, said University of Pisa expert Graziano Ranocchia.
    The scholar made the announcement at the Naples Biblioteca Nazionale (National Library) as he presented the mid-term results of the 'Greek Schools' research project conducted with the National Research Council.
    Ranocchia said the texts suggested the burial place was in a garden reserved for Plato in a private area in the Academy, near the sacred shrine to the Muses.
    The Platonic Academy was destroyed by the Roman dictator Sulla in 86 BC.
    The newly deciphered text has revealed that Plato was sold as a slave on the island of Aegina in 404 BC, when the Spartans conquered the island, or alternatively in 399 BC, immediately after the death of Socrates.
    Hitherto it had been believed that the great philosopher had been sold into slavery in 387 BC during his sojourn in Sicily at the court of Dionysios I of Siracusa.
    The text also speak of Plato's last night, Ranocchia said.
    "He was running a high fever and was bothered by the music they were playing," said the Pisa researcher.
    The newly revealed text says the "sweet notes" of a flute played by a woman originally from Thrace were supposed to make Plato's last hours of life lighter, but the famed Greek philosopher did not enjoy them at all: although running a high fever and at death's door, he was lucid enough to criticise the barbarian musician for her "scant sense of rhythm", in front of a Chaldean guest who had come from Mesopotamia.
    In the newly deciphered text, also, the name of Philo of Larissa is also corrected to Philio, a pupil of the grammarian Apollodoros of Athens for two years and of the Stoic Mnesarchus for seven years, who died at the age of 63 in Italy during a flu pandemic.
    The new technology that has permitted the scrutiny of the troublesome multiple layers of carbonised text include two innovative techniques, optical coherence tomography and infrared hyperspectral imaging, carried out thanks to a mobile laboratory supplied by Nottingham Trent University.
    Ranocchia said that multiple layers had hitherto represented a "dramatic problem" in trying to decipher the texts.
    The site of Plato's Academy was rediscovered in the twentieth century, in the modern Akadimia Platonos neighbourhood of Athens.
    Considerable excavation has been accomplished and visiting the site is free.
    The site contains important monuments, including the Sacred House Geometric Era, the Gymnasium (first century BC - first century AD), the Proto-Helladic Vaulted House and the Peristyle Building (fourth century BC), which is perhaps the only major building that belonged to the actual Academy of Plato.
    Up till now the exact location of the philosopher's grave had been unknown.


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