Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Villa of the Papyrii, Herculaneum, Italy

Photo: Villa of the Papyri, from Hercolaneum, a Personal View

When Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried by the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, along with the human casualties, an impressive library was destroyed.

In the mid-1700s the remains of the villa containing the scrolls were discovered by well-diggers. This sumptuous home is thought to have belonged to the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.

Writings of the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus were among the 1800 damaged papyrus scrolls that were found in the villa and placed in a Naples museum.

Advanced methods of image restoration have made it possible to decipher some of the damaged scrolls. An international effort called the Philodemus Project was launched to decipher and publish the contents of these papyrii. Thus, recently published work by Philodemus covering moral psychology and therapeutics is now available.

In The Ethics of Philodemus (Voula Tsouna, UC Santa Barbara, 2007) the philosopher discusses vice and virtue, and conceives of philosophy as medicine and the philosopher as doctor who treats the soul, thus providing further insight into the therapeutics of the Hellenic age.

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