Here’s the remainder of Richard Carrier’s Twelve Books at Herculaneum (nearby Pompeii), that is changing the history our world’s been tricked into thinking. In his own recent words “There is a fabulous ancient treasure still buried at Herculaneum in the Bay of Naples.” continued on to explain much of it has been covered by Mount Vesuvius volcanic ash, since 79ad. Various other documentaries have been made, yet Italian Government restrict further works to be performed, for fear of safety/destruction/landslides.
7. Ptolemaïs of Cyrene’s Two Treatises on Science
Ptolemais of Cyrene was in her own day a renowned scientist and expert in acoustics, harmonics, and music theory, sometime near the turn of the era. Authors who quote her treatise on that subject, Pythagorean Principles of Music, consistently regard it as renowned and authoritative. That makes this a known important-yet-lost work of the only known female research scientist in the Hellenistic era. That alone would make it a prize worth rescuing and having. But what we also know is that in her highly respected treatise on harmonics she sought to bring disparate doctrines into a single unified science, and she actually wrote another treatise generalizing that method to all the sciences—arguing the importance of combining empirical with rational methodology, rather than treating them as at odds or as different inquiries—an achievement that was influential not just in her own field, but in others. Eclecticism (the opposite of dogmatism) and unification (combining the best of different theorists and methodologies and scrapping the worst) begin to appear in all extant scientists after her date, making hers possibly a major contribution to the modernization of science.
Again there is no telling what else she may have done. But these two works alone suggest a trend seen also in Galen a century or two later in the life sciences: seeking to unify a scientific field’s disparate theories and ideas, and establish the correct methods for pursuing it. We see evidence of this (merging atomism with Aristotelianism, for example; likewise empiricism and rationalism, experimental and theoretical science, mathematics and table-top instruments, and the like) in Ptolemy and Hero as well, bringing it into the fields of astronomy and the rest of physics. See my discussion of all these points in The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire. Given the Herculaneum magnate’s clear and deep interest in matters of science, logic, and mathematics (from his shelf full of books on the subject), and Ptolemaïs’s works’ clear and influential fame across the sciences, I think there are reasonable odds we can find it there, making hers the first extant scientific study published by a woman.
8. Pamphila’s Historical Notes or Agrippina’s Memoirs
Speaking of women as authors, there were many in antiquity, yet almost none preserved by patriarchal Christians in the Middle Ages. But two come particularly to mind whose lost books we would very much like to recover: Pamphila of Epidaurus wrote thirty-three volumes of Historical Notes on events up to her own time, which was around 60 A.D. So once again, contemporary accounts of events right during the dawn of Christianity. She wrote several other works (on famous women; on sex; and various miscellanies and epitomes). But having the first known female historian’s treatise on history would be a great find. More so as she was probably also Black—and thus would the be among the first extant Black historians (since sources describe her as Egyptian by descent, and not merely a Greek from Egypt); though she wouldn’t be the first altogether (earlier Africans we know wrote books; Juba, for example).
Given the wide use later historians made of Pamphila’s Notes, and her just having published it not two decades before, it bears a reasonable probability our Herculaneum collector would have had a copy. There are other famous works from women we would like to have, such as Leontion’s treatise Against Theophrastus, which could be the first feminist treatise ever written. Given that she was a famous Epicurean philosopher—indeed, she was a student of Epicurus himself, and companion of Metrodorus, whose books were in the Herculaneum cache—someone, in fact, even Cicero had read and also assumed his readers would be well familiar with, and given that our Herculaneum collector was fond of works from Epicureans, it follows that her book, too, stands a reasonable chance of being there.
Another likely find in this category:
The memoirs of Julia Agrippina (Nero’s mother, Caligula’s sister, and Claudius’s wife), which Tacitus employed as a source. She was assassinated by Nero in 59, too early to report on events of 64, but her work must have covered events up to at least 54 (Nero’s accession). She was born in 15, and her close position to Caligula and Claudius makes it reasonable to expect she might have mentioned Christianity if it were at all significant (e.g. if the Chrestus event under Claudius really did have anything to do with Christ).]OHJ, P. 295
Agrippina was a famous and important personage of the time, and it was particularly popular to spite Nero in the years after his death by supporting causes and authors he opposed. Agrippina’s Memoirs thus also stands a reasonable chance of being found at Herculaneum.
9. Petronius’s Satyricon or Against Nero
Petronius is renowned for being a prominent member of the senate and imperial court of Nero. The latter forced him to commit suicide in 66 A.D. yet he composed and published a damning treatise against Nero in revenge before completing the deed, which was referenced by other authors like Tacitus. This could hardly omit reflection on Nero’s murders of scapegoats for the burning of Rome—and thus revealing whether indeed it was any such group as the Christians, as the text of Tacitus now says. Petronius is also regarded as the author of the infamous Satyricon, which bears eerie similarities to stories in the New Testament, and whose date and authorship has been importantly challenged, which dispute really needs a resolution, because it affects a great deal about how we see what the Gospel authors are doing (see my discussion in Robyn Faith Walsh and the Gospels as Literature). Either of these would therefore be an important find. And as they fall into the category of recently popular “rage lit” against Nero, in Latin, and composed by a nearby notable, there’s a reasonable chance either could be at Herculaneum.
Important Writers Likely to Be Found There
After those nine or so titles of particular interest and likelihood, there are also many then-famous writers who wrote numerous books on many subjects, any of which would be a prize to recover. I’ll just name the top three in my areas of interest…
Agathinus was one of the most important medical theorists in the 1st century A.D. He might post-date Herculaneum or pre-date it. But he is of considerable historical significance as a Stoic who nevertheless established an “eclectic” medical sect called the Episynthetics, which specifically rejected the splitting of medical theory into sects and sought unification of theories under a common empirical regime (so, possibly another scientist influenced by Ptolemaïs). Which is important to the history of science because this sectarianism had become excessive over the preceding century, reminiscent of the sectarian divisions within 20th century psychology, and it is notable that deliberate efforts were beginning under the Romans to end this. Indeed Agathinus’s efforts would later inspire Galen.
Agathinus wrote on numerous medical subjects, but most significantly including an empirical treatise on the dosage requirements of the poison hellebore, employed as an emetic (to induce vomiting) or (we also know) commonly as an abortifacient. Scholars argue his treatise was based on (and thus reported) his own dosage experiments performed on animals to tailor dose to body mass. This would reflect possibly the first controlled medical study; as well as the first formal medical study of chemical abortion and birth control. And the Herculaneum collector could have this, or other works of Agathinus, owing to his considerable fame and importance in that very century.
Posidonius even built a machine that replicated the movement of the seven known planets. Cicero’s description of this device certifies it was a proper orrery (a luniplanetary armillary sphere)—a machine that represents the solar system in three dimensions, in rings that can be rotated to reproduce the actual relative motion and position of the seven planets over time. This was probably a significant improvement on a similar machine Archimedes had built over a century before; Posidonius would have known of important corrections and improvements to planetary theory developed after him. …
It is also possible Posidonius constructed a dial computer, a kind of astronomical clock, which indicates planetary positions (and even lunar phases and other data) two-dimensionally, through a gear-driven dial readout [such as we actually found; in fact, its date and location are apposite enough that that might even be his; or one he built for a client].SCIENTIST, PP. 145-47
Overall, Posidonius wrote over thirty books on countless philosophical and scientific subjects, including books on astronomy, meteorology and climatology, earthquakes and lightning, seismology and volcanology, mathematics, geography, oceanography, zoology, botany, psychology, anthropology, ethnology and history, and beyond. He notably wrote up a study on flammable minerals (including varieties of petroleum and coal). He famously tried calculating the size of the Earth by a novel method—though erred, and his error was picked up by Ptolemy and eventually Christopher Columbus; though unlike Columbus, Ptolemy recognized its inaccuracy and developed the system of locating positions on Earth by degrees of latitude and longitude to overcome that problem.
Posidonius also had some knowledge of lenses and magnification and may have begun research on the subject; but either way, he certainly had knowledge of lenses that magnify through refraction (as evinced in Strabo, Geography 3.1.5; Cleomedes, On the Heavens 2.6; Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 5.82; cf. Seneca, Natural Questions 1.6.5–7). Such work would bear comparison with later research by Ptolemy on exactly the same subject (Scientist, index, “lenses”). No scientific treatise on the subject survives from antiquity, although missing sections of Ptolemy’s Optics appear to have included it, and there is ample evidence its study predated Ptolemy (Ibid.).
Given his fame and the importance of his books, recognized even in his own day, the probability is quite high that there will be works of Posidonius at Herculaneum. Any of them would be valuable to recover; but especially any that might have discussed the science of magnifying lenses, or petroleum or coal, or the sizes and distances of the planets.
12. Seleucus of Seleucia
Finally, of superlative importance would be recovering any of the lost works of the astronomer Seleucus, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. and was the student of Aristarchus—and actually the most famous heliocentrist in antiquity. We now enfame Aristarchus for being the first known heliocentrist, all but having forgotten Seleucus. But Plutarch, who read their works, says Aristarchus proposed heliocentrism as “only a hypothesis” but that Seleucus “demonstrated it” (Platonic Questions 8.1 = Moralia 1006c). That would actually make his work on the subject the more important; and ancient readers knew it. Plutarch does not say how Seleucus proved heliocentrism—indicating Plutarch could trust any reader already knew, which entails a rather considerable renown for the man and his achievement. We also know from elsewhere that Seleucus was famous for discovering lunisolar tide theory, recognizing that a form of universal gravitation from sun, moon, and Earth explains and predicts the behavior of ocean tides (e.g. Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.99.212–218 and 2.102.221; Cicero, On Divination 2.34 and On the Nature of the Gods 2.7.15–16; Seneca, On Providence 1.4; Cleomedes, On the Heavens 156; Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.2.3–6; Strabo, Geography 3.5.8 and 1.1.8–12).
We might infer Seleucus put this together as an explanation of a heliocentric solar system as well; certainly, Galileo thought so (see Galileo’s Goofs: Lessons We Can Learn from Failure). And Plutarch hints as much (see Ancient Theories of Gravity: What Was Lost?). And regardless, many Roman authors were quite familiar with his work. Direct and indirect attestations range from Seneca’s Natural Questions (which does not survive whole and the lost portions could indeed be at Herculaneum as well) to Plutarch’s On the Face in the Moon. Given that even Seneca, a major Latin author from Rome, includes mention of heliocentrism and debates surrounding it just a couple decades before the destruction of Herculaneum, and given how readily ancient authors knew Seleucus’s work and assumed everyone else did, it seems reasonable to expect we could find Seleucus’s “proof” of heliocentrism at Herculaneum, or at least his treatise on lunisolar tide theory or universal gravitation, which would be extraordinary.
And Much More
As I said, there could be other books by these authors, and so many authors and books we don’t even have a surviving mention of. Recovering their lost names and works for posterity would be an inestimable honor to them and an achievement for humanity. But there will also be works there of greater magnitude.
This includes countless scientific treatises. Almost all of that genre was destroyed by medieval Christians—more out of mere disinterest than hostility, but sometimes, yes, hostility (I document in Ch. 5 of Scientist that even the liberal-minded Origen commanded the shunning, and thus discarding, of all scientific and philosophical works by ancient atomists, and even Aristotelians, which will have encompassed the majority of ancient science). Just one subdivision of that subject, life and mineral sciences, illustrates the point (see my article The Sociology of Ancient Scientists Cannot Be Based on Medieval Source Selection); likewise gravitation and dynamics (see Ancient Theories of Gravity: What Was Lost?); and more. In Scientist I mention a great deal else, from lost treatises on combinatorics and permutation theory, to studies of air pressure and magnetism. Any of this, too, could be there.
This also includes countless historical treatises. Besides the many examples I already mentioned, there are more. As I wrote in Historicity:
Marcus Velleius Paterculus sketched a history of the Romans from their mythic past up to the year 29 [A.D.] (of which parts survive) and [the native African] King Juba of Mauretania did the same up to around the year 20 (none of which survives) … [Likewise] Marcus Servilius Nonianus, who we know wrote a dedicated history of the first century up to at least the year 41 [and he wrote it in the late 50s]. … [And] Cluvius Rufus, ex-consul and Nero’s personal herald in the mid-first century, having served in the Senate since the 30s, wrote a detailed history of events during the reign of Nero, beginning with the reign of Caligula in the year 37, and continuing past Nero up to the reign of Otho in the year 69. This surely would have discussed Nero’s persecution of Christians in 64, which would have required a digression on Jesus and Christianity, which in turn would likely touch on the relevant details of the appellate case of Paul before Nero in 62 (if that even happened) and what was claimed in that case, and how it degenerated into the execution of scores if not hundreds of Christians just a couple years later for the crime of burning the city of Rome, surely the single most famous event of that or any adjacent year … [Likewise] Fabius Rusticus wrote a history during Nero’s reign that covered events up to his own time, which may have gotten as far as his death or at least the persecution [of Christians], and at any rate covered events under Augustus and Tiberius (and Claudius) and thus would very likely have noticed Christianity if it was notable at all.
And that’s just of lost histories we know about, because someone else mentions them. So whether your jam is science or history (or any other subject of poetry or prose), you, too, should want Herculaneum to finally be excavated, to rescue this treasure hoard unparalleled in human value.
About The Author
Richard Carrier is the author of many books and numerous articles online and in print. His avid readers span the world from Hong Kong to Poland. With a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University, he specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism and humanism, and the origins of Christianity and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, with particular expertise in ancient philosophy, science and technology. He is also a noted defender of scientific and moral realism, Bayesian reasoning, and historical methods.
RETRIEVED Carrier, R. (2023). Twelve Books at Herculaneum That Could Change History. Retrieved via www.richardcarrier.info/archives/23380.