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Kilian Fleischer: Philodem, Geschichte der Akademie. Einführung, Ausgabe, Kommentar (= Papyri Graecae Herculanenses; Vol. 1), Leiden / Boston: Brill 2023, XV + 1105 S., 125 z.T. Farb-Abb., ISBN 978-90-04-54653-0, EUR 211,86
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Rezension von:
Antonio Iacoviello
École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Matthias Haake
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Antonio Iacoviello: Rezension von: Kilian Fleischer: Philodem, Geschichte der Akademie. Einführung, Ausgabe, Kommentar, Leiden / Boston: Brill 2023, in: sehepunkte 24 (2024), Nr. 5 [15.05.2024], URL:

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Kilian Fleischer: Philodem, Geschichte der Akademie

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There may perhaps be no more vibrant period for research on Herculaneum papyri than nowadays. The Vesuvius Challenge, with its ample coverage in the international press, is not only raising public awareness about the significance of the Villa of Papyri - the sole surviving library from Graeco-Roman antiquity - but is also reigniting scholarly interest in the potential new texts (either by Philodemus of Gadara or other authors) that the library may contain.

The book under review is an edition, with a comprehensive introduction and commentary, of Philodemus' History of the Academy (Index Academicorum, P.Herc. 1691/1021 + 164) by K. Fleischer, author of other significant books and articles on the Herculaneum papyri. Within this treatise, Philodemus traces the history of the Platonic school, from its beginnings down to the first century BCE. This work has been the subject of multiple studies. [1] However, recent technological advancements in the decipherment of Herculaneum papyri have highlighted the necessity of a new edition of this key text. Opened by a Praefatio in Latin (as opposed to the German used throughout the book), this large (1000+ plus tables) and lavishly produced volume presents us with a new editio maior of the Index Academicorum, which will undoubtedly remain the work of reference on the treatise for years, if not decades, to come.

The papyrology of Herculaneum papyri stands as one of the most formidable and specialised subfields within the discipline of Classics. Perhaps, only experienced papyrologists can authoritatively comment on this aspect of the book; nonetheless, it is worth outlining the steps forward made in this field by the volume. The Introduction contains, as expected, a thorough papyrological examination of the rolls. The decipherment of Herculaneum papyri is made outrageously difficult by the poor state of the material support; most notably, the black ink on the carbonised black rolls is barely visible without specific aids and software. As far as these rolls are concerned, scholars had already produced drawings (now in Naples and Oxford). However, Fleischer has been able to supersede these textual reconstructions with the use of multispectral (MSI) and, more recently, hyperspectral images (HMI, used in conjunction rather than as a substitution for one another). Fleischer also offers a state-of-the-art analysis of the bibliological characteristics of the rolls (e.g. measures of the material support and size of the columns; this is arguably the most technical part of the book, to be appreciated in full mostly by hardcore papyrologists).

Besides these papyrological considerations, the book contains much food for thought for scholars of the history and literature of the late Classical and Hellenistic periods, as well as of philosophy (of the Academy and beyond). Ever since the seminal works by T. Dorandi [2], scholars have duly acknowledged the importance of Herculaneum papyri for the chronology and political history of the late Classical and early Hellenistic period (especially in Athens). This holds true not only because Philodemus addressed the historical context in which Epicurus operated; but also because he often quoted extensively texts from lost authors dating to those periods. The list of these authors is indeed impressive: e.g., Philochorus, Dicearchus, Speusippus, Timaeus of Tauromenium, Demochares of Leuconoe, Antigonus of Carystus and Apollodorus of Athens. Therefore, Fleischer rightly emphasises the importance of Philodemus' Index not only for scholars of ancient philosophy and papyrology but also for historians, epigraphists, and archaeologists.

Given the limited space, let us consider a selection of case studies underscoring the significance of Philodemus' treatise and, accordingly, of Fleischer's commentary. Column 2 embeds an excerptum of Philochorus' Atthis which encompasses the Academy's building, most notably its sculptures. Scholars have already pointed out that philosophy (and philosophical schools) held an important place in Philochorus' Atthis. [3] Fleischer goes on to argue that the Atthis was, in fact, one of the key sources of the Index Academicorum (in particular, the sixth book of the Atthis for Plato, and the seventh for Xenokrates).

Columns 10 to 12 also contain a plethora of information of paramount importance. Based on new readings, Fleischer has shed light on the Index's treatment of the philo-Macedonian 'tyrant' Chaeron of Pellene (330s), mentioned in a few other sources (Pseudo-Demosthenes 17; Pausanias; Athenaeus; [4]). Several scholars already addressed the difficult Quellenforschung relating to Chaeron; in particular, the supposed dependence of Philodemus, Hermippus, and Athenaeus upon the early third-century historian and speechwriter Demochares of Leuconoe (which Fleischer takes to be also Philodemus' sources on Heraclides Ponticus, cols. 9-10). Fleischer's new readings of the papyrus seem to show that, as far as Chaeron is concerned, Philodemus used direct sources (e.g. Hyperides - see below).

Linked to Pellene is also the Index's mention (cols. 11-12) of a previously unknown conflict, the 'Hyperasian War' (Ὑπεράσιος πόλεμος), a name originating from a less common toponym of Ageira (Achaia). F. considers this obscure war as an armed dispute between Ageira and Pellene over control of the former's sanctuary. That being so, the Hyperasian War would resemble a smaller-scale Sacred War. The same columns provide invaluable new information on a hitherto unknown speech by Hyperides, titled Against Antipater's Ambassadors (Πρὸς τοὺς τοῦ Ἀντιπάτρου πρέσβεις). Fleischer, who previously discussed this material elsewhere [5], opportunely considers this speech as delivered in the Assembly rather than as a judicial oration. The fact that Hyperides addressed the Chaeron-topos in this speech has implications for the authorship of another speech, transmitted in the Demosthenic corpus, On the Treaty with Alexander ([Dem.] 17), which contains mentions of Chaeron and his philo-Macedonian policies. The identification of Hyperides as the author of [Dem.] 17, strengthened by this papyrus, is all the more compelling because Libanius, in his hypothesis of the speech, assigned it precisely to Hyperides on the grounds of vocabulary.

Not many readers will perhaps go through this massive book from cover to cover; those who will consult it on specific points, however, will find it a valuable resource for countless topics. A possible critique may be concerned with the book's length (for instance, there are several long quotations of ancient texts) and with the arrangement of the material (cf. the somewhat curious presentation Einordnung, Quellen, Kommentar: why not merging them?). Although the book includes an Index locorum and verborum (interestingly, the Index nominum is compiled exclusively in Greek), there is no general index. However, considering the size of the book, compiling such an index would have been an immense task. On the other hand, the book includes as many as eighty-five high-definition tables - which constitute valuable material for papyrologists and paleographers.

In conclusion, Fleischer's edition is a most welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the treasures of Villa dei Papiri's library - much useful, as remarked above, to papyrologists and cultural historians alike. It remains to be hoped that the undeciphered rolls from Herculaneum, along with those to be still uncovered in the Villa, will contain works as stimulating as the Index Academicorum.


[1] The most important of which being T. Dorandi: Filodemo, Storia dei filosofi: Platone e l'Academia, Naples 1991.

[2] E.g.: T. Dorandi, in: ZPE 84 (1990), 121-38.

[3] See, most recently, R. Thomas: Polis Patriotism and the Writing of Athenian History, in: V. Pirenne-Delforge & M. Węcowski (eds.): Studies in Ancient Greek History in Honour of Josine Blok, Leiden / Boston 2023, 141-156.

[4] M. Haake: Der Philosoph in der Stadt, München 2007, 34-37.

[5] In: ZPE 207 (2018), 21-38.

Antonio Iacoviello