Lost Texts

 Posted by on 16 August 2004 at 9:32 pm  Aristotle
Aug 162004

Whenever I learn of modern archeological finds of Biblical texts, artifacts, and sites, I wonder whether a simple shepherd might someday unearth the lost works of Aristotle hidden in some dark cave. I had just that thought today as I read the headline about the discovery of a cave seemingly linked to John the Baptist.

I don’t know enough about the history of ancient Greek texts to even suggest that such an idle fantasy might come to pass. How many copies of Aristotle’s works were produced? How durable were the texts? How were they stored? How widely were they distributed? I suspect that modern scholars can’t answer such questions in sufficient detail to suppose that copies of Aristotle’s lost texts might still exist somewhere. (Richard Rubenstein recounts the known history in his dramatic book on the rediscovery and influence of Aristotle’s works in the Middle Ages, Aristotle’s Children.)

Of course, we could not determine whether some presently lost texts of Aristotle’s might be stashed away in unknown places until and unless we actually find them. But oh how glorious such a find would be!

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