I was fascinated by the announcement of the 'virtual unrolling' of a fire-burned scroll in En-Gedi that has been analysed and found to be part of the book of Leviticus.

As the Guardian noted, the technique could be applied to the scrolls burned by Vesuvius in the 'villa of the papyri'.

Unfortunately, because of the quirks of time, the works of Appian and Tacitus won't be in the villa as it was destroyed before they wrote and published their works. But that got me wondering: which of their (lost or incomplete) sources could be in the villa?

The sources for Tacitus and Appian seem to be difficult to get into my head - I couldn't see anything on them particularly from a google search. Potentially, the histories of Polybius or Livy could be used, or the lost history of Claudius... either of which could turn up in the villa. But who else?

  • I thought Livy came much later than Polybius...the latter of which was alive and active during the Punic Wars. Livy's accounts of the Punic Wars which I think were written around the time of Caeser contain notable differences in their accounting of the Wars...which does give rise to questions of "objectivity" and "writing historically accurate accounts of the past" yet also implies these events and their authors did exist too. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 15:39
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    List of lost works on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_work#Classical_world
    – AllInOne
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 17:51
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    The main one we should regret (in my opinion) is Claudius' Etruscan history...
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 20:30
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    'The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus' (ed. A.J.Woodman) goes into some detail on his sources. Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 9:30
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    Think about an average well-to-do household today (or of any other time for which we have good records) and consider what their library most likely contained: novels, pop philosophy, estate management, books on hunting, fishing and farming, etc. The odds of any surviving library to be an ancient Cottonian is pretty small. But we can hope.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


What sources could Tacitus or Appian have used that have since been lost?


Tacitus (56 c. - 120 AD) is famous for writing

Appian (c. AD 95 – c. AD 165) wrote 24 books and most of them only sections survive today. His most important works were 13–17 of the Roman History, were on the Roman Civil Wars. But broadly he was a Roman historian who wrote on Rome.


Sources which both Tacitus and Appian might have used which are now lost to history?


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