Book cover for 'Philodemus in Italy'
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Philodemus in Italy

The Books from Herculaneum
Marcello Gigante
Translated by Dirk Obbink
A lively and concise survey of current scholarship on difficult but fascinating texts by this Epicurean poet and philosopher


Philodemus (ca 110-35 B.C.E.) was an Epicurean poet and philosopher who settled on the Bay of Naples at Herculaneum. He was praised by Cicero, and counted Vergil and Horace among his pupils in the Roman intelligentsia. Philodemus's epigrams proved him a verbal artist of the first rank, but the remainder of his writings were buried under lava in an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Excavated in 1752, his private library of some 800 papyrus rolls is one of the few libraries of texts recovered intact from the ancient world.

Philodemus in Italy makes available for the first time in English the exciting state-of-the-art research on these ancient manuscripts. Marcello Gigante provides a lively and concise survey of current scholarship on these difficult and fascinating texts.

Gigante's book relates the histories of the papyri and efforts to unroll and decipher the texts, then outlines content of the texts and the scope of current research about them. The text is enhanced by a gallery of plates depicting the plan of the Herculaneum, the unearthing of the papyri rolls, and the text of various fragments within them.

This English translation will be warmly welcomed by scholars of the ancient world, among whom interest in the texts and library of Philodemus runs high. It will also appeal to those interested in the history of writing, cultural literacy, and libraries.

"Marcello Gigante has devoted many years to the promotion of research of all kinds on the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara. It is excellent to have an English version of his survey and assessment of recent studies—of the contents of the library preserved on charred papyri recovered from Herculaneum, of the decorative program of the villa which housed it, of reedited papyri, and of Philodemus' place in Roman thought and culture in the final years of the Republic." 
 —John H. D'Arms, University of Michigan

"A short, lively introduction to a philosophical author who deserves to be known. Gigante's book is an obvious candidate for translation into English."
 —Elizabeth Asmis, University of Chicago

Marcello Gigante is Director of the Centro Internazionale per lo Studio dei Papiri Ercolanesi, University of Naples.

Dirk Obbink is Professor of Classics, Barnard College.

Praise / Awards

  • "In a word this book is elegant. At the most basic level its appearance is handsome. More importantly, Gigante's rendering of Philodemus is fascinating and engaging, and Dirk Obbink's translation is masterful. . . . This book will be of interest to philosophers, philologists, archeologists and art historians. Anyone interested in Epicureanism and the very real life of friendship fostered in Epicurean communities will find much to dwell on in this marvelous little book."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Product Details

  • 5-1/4 x 9.
  • 192pp.
  • 16 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08908-6

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  • $28.95 U.S.