2,000-Year-Old Scroll Reveals Plato's Burial Site in Athens Academy Garden

Researchers uncover Plato's burial site in Athens using advanced scanning techniques on ancient scrolls, revealing new insights into the philosopher's life and legacy.

Safak Costu
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2,000-Year-Old Scroll Reveals Plato's Burial Site in Athens Academy Garden

2,000-Year-Old Scroll Reveals Plato's Burial Site in Athens Academy Garden

Researchers have uncovered new details about the burial site of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, using advanced "bionic eye scanning techniques on a 2,000-year-old carbonized scroll. The text, titled "The History of the Academy" by Epicurean philosopher Philodemus, reveals that Plato was buried in the garden of his academy in Athens, near a sacred shrine.

The discovery was made by Italian papyrologist Graziano Ranocchia of the University of Pisa, who analyzed papyri from Herculaneum, a Roman town destroyed during the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The papyri were read using a bionic eye, which detected a thousand new words, 30% more than previous analyses.

The location of Plato's grave was contained in a history of the Academy by Philodemus of Gadara, who lived in Herculaneum. Plato's Academy, founded by the philosopher in 387 BC, was the first university in the world, covering a wide variety of topics such as philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, politics, and physics.

Why this matters: This development signifies a monumental achievement, offering scholars a tangible connection to one of history's most influential philosophers and the potential to uncover more about the layout and usage of the Academy during ancient times.

The garden where Plato held his discussions had also been used by many Athenian groups, both civil and religious, and the road leading to the Academy was lined with the gravestones of many Athenians. The Platonic Academy was later destroyed by the Roman dictator Sulla in 86 BC.

The research also suggests that Plato may have been sold as a slave as early as 404 BC or 399 BC, rather than the previously believed date of 387 BC. Ranocchia and his team plan to continue studying the papyri to uncover more secrets from the ancient world, and expect to complete this project by 2026.

Ranocchia stated, "The discovery of the exact location of Plato's burial is a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of this great philosopher, whose ideas have shaped Western thought for more than two millennia." This finding not only enriches our understanding of Plato and ancient philosophy but also demonstrates the potential of interdisciplinary collaboration between technology and classical studies to shed new light on the cultural heritage of ancient civilizations.

Key Takeaways

  • Plato's burial site discovered in Athens garden of his academy
  • Text by Epicurean Philodemus revealed in carbonized Herculaneum scroll
  • Plato's Academy was world's first university, founded in 387 BC
  • Plato may have been sold as slave earlier than previously thought
  • Discovery offers new insights into Plato and ancient Greek philosophy