The Research ProjectI. State-of-the-art

The primary goal of this project is acquiring a sounder and deeper knowledge of the philosophical discussion occurred among the principal schools of the Hellenistic age, in particular between Stoics and Epicureans, through the written witness of the direct protagonists. It has always been repeated that Hellenistic philosophy is only known through indirect testimonies transmitted by secondary sources like Cicero, Plutarch or Sextus Empiricus. Even if this remains right in the majority of cases, we have the great luck to have at our disposition a unique philosophical library surviving directly from antiquity. It is the library of Philodemus of Gadara found in the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, a collection of ca. 1000 Greek and Latin papyrus-rolls for the most part containing highly specialised works by Philodemus himself and other exponents of the Epicurean and the Stoic school. Since 1793 the scholars tried for many decades to edit with much effort and only partial results these very difficult texts belonging to personalities like Epicurus, Chrysippus, Metrodorus, Colotes, Demetrius Laco and Philodemus. After the German philology between the XIX and the XX century had given an important contribution to the editing of these works, this peculiar branch of classics has been ignored for a long time until its renaissance in the latter half of the past century thank to the studies of Francesco Sbordone and Marcello Gigante. Nowadays the interest of the international scientific community for the Herculaneum library has become even stronger also because of the recent critical editions by Dirk Obbink (1996), Richard Janko (2000) and Daniel Delattre (2007). An important role has been played by the application of multispectral imaging to the reading of these papyri and of course also by the recent partial excavations of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, the magnificent Roman suburban villa where Philodemus, library was discovered at the middle of the XVIII century. The peculiarity of this extraordinary papyrus collection is a) that they contain in different states of preservation original works by prominent Epicurean and Stoic philosophers which are not transmitted through the manuscript tradition, and b) that some of them were written in a period that is very close to the composition date of the works contained in them (the earliest dating back to the III century BC). Now, the Herculanean papyri are only partially edited. Even when this happened, it was normally done with inadequate methods. Firstly, because, as the most recent research has shown, many past editors did not usually read the original papyri themselves but, rather, used for their textual reconstructions old apographs of the papyri made in different times after their unrolling or/and the engravings printed in Herculanensium voluminum quae supersunt (Neapoli, Collectio prior: 1793-1855; Collectio altera: 1862-1876), a sort of proto-edition of many Herculanean papyri; secondarily, because in many cases the original sequence of the fragments in the the roll has been reconstructed in a wrong way; and thirdly, because sometimes outer or inner papyrus layers (resp. ‘sottoposti’ and ‘sovrapposti’) have been confused with the original one. Since the edition of On Piety by Dirk Obbink the scholars have tried to face these problems in new promising ways. Anyway, not even this scholar nor Richard Janko in his edition of On Poems I could make use of the most recent multispectral images. This situation and the development of innovative methods of image processing and text decipherment makes it indispensable to replace many older editions. It will probably last still many decades before the scholarly community will have at disposition a sufficient set of modern, complete and reliable editions of Herculanean texts.

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