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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

REVIEW of Victoria C. Gardner Coates, Jon L. Seydl, Antiquity Recovered. The Legacy of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.06.48
Victoria C. Gardner Coates, Jon L. Seydl, Antiquity Recovered. The Legacy of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007. Pp. 304; figs. 121. ISBN 978-0-89236-872-3. $60.00.

Reviewed by Eric M. Moormann, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (e.moormann@let.ru.nl)
Word count: 2374 words

below is the part of the review dealing with the Herculaneum papyri

James Porter contributes a paper on the discovery of ancient texts in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. No new text of Aeschylus, Homer or Livy or any other major author was discovered among the carbonised scrolls. He sketches how eagerly scholars dismissed the importance of the texts by Philodemus, which are interesting in their own right. Porter presents a sound debunking of the romantic vision of the villa as a philosophical retreat, e.g. of Calpurnius Piso, with Philodemus as the pet philosopher. We cannot deduce that from the facts. Even the 'library' was nothing but crates and heaps of papyri found in disorder. Porter rides his hobbyhorse in stressing the problem of classicism (or not) in these texts and concludes that the readers of these texts were strongly deluded by Antiquity, which offered a different face than they wished.2 He refers to suggestions of new excavations to find more texts and apparently does not know of the dig made in the 1990s at the behest of the then director of the Papyrological Institute at Naples, Marcello Gigante. More or less unpublished, offering almost nothing to either archaeologist or tourist, these new ruins at the northern side of excavated Herculaneum are decaying rapidly.3 All these disappointments, however, did not prevent literary reactions: the number of literary texts "found at Herculaneum" increased incredibly in the run of the 18th century. I mention only the pamphlet cited supra and the Voyages d'Antenor en Grèce et en Asie, presumably translated from a Greek manuscript from Herculaneum by E.-F. Lanthier in 1795.

read the whole review here