I hate to throw cold water on this, but I seriously doubt that there are a lot of "forbidden" works that are locked away in the basement of the Vatican. It takes work, but researchers can view almost anything they have. What the public is kept out of, if anything, are documents and records that could be damaging to the Roman Catholic Church.

I am no lover of the HRCC, but I think this theory is rather like the legends that the Knights Templar became the Scottish Masons and still rule America from behind the scenes.

In short I should have been from Missouri. Show me some evidence, because I don’t believe without proof.

While I have no doubt that the Vatican holds an impressive collection of manuscripts, I find this conclusion far-fectched. Consider this: the Codex Sinaiticus, the most important early copy of the Bible that we possess, is not in the hands of the Pope, but in the British Museum. Other important manuscripts--certainly, not all religious--are located in monasteries around the world, and in general the various monastic orders have been happy to let scholars have access to them. (A great many of these were copied with new-fangled photographic technology in the early 20th century and are thus available for public view.) Consider Bryennios's discovery of the Didache in 1879--a massively important document not in Vatican hands.

Without even reaching for my resources, I can say that we only have Livy's Roman histories thanks to the work of Catholic monks who were more than happy to share their manuscripts. Polybius comes to us through the Codex Vaticanus, which the Holy See has available to scholars. Arrian's history of Alexander comes to us largely through manuscripts that are now in Paris and Vienna.

As far as the idea--that this argument must contain--that there are no new finds to be found, I point to the vast collection of Gnostic papyrus material unearthed at Nag Hammadi in Egypt (the home of the largest Greek city of antiquity, Alexandria) in the 1940s, which contained, for example, a divergent translation of an important passage from Plato's "Republic". This find, though religious in nature, does help shed much light on the popular religious movements of the day, helping better illustrate the Neoplatonism that was popular among the literati of antiquity.

While it is true that the Vatican holds an enormous number of manuscripts that are forbidden in access to, and the parts that are open to research are accessible only to a few researchers, picked by the Vatican itself, mainly because of their political and religious opinions (not only classics material but also early-Christianity and Judaism related material and historical manuscripts of the Vatican itself), this HARDLY stops research in any of these fields, including Classics. To call Classics a dead field of study is nothing short of ignorance.

While it is true that we are limited in our access to the Vatican archives, the desert, however, gives us many many evidences the Vatican archives can never hope to contain.

Papyrology is one of the most important fields of research in modern Classics (pardon the pun) research, and it gives us completely new works, long thought to have been lost, and much more accurate versions of known works. This is achieved by the fact that the dry air of the Sahara serves much better than the humid, moss-afflicted libraries of European monasteries in preserving paper (or papyrus), and therefore the works we have on papyrus are much earlier than European tomes, and therefore have gone through less copying, and their contents have not been distorted by various copying mistakes.

For instance, a copy I have of the Poetica by Aristotle in the original Greek, and that was edited in the 1960s is considered today completely outdated, due to numerous corrections done to it based on Papyri.

In addition, hundreds of inscriptions on walls, tombs, official buildings etc. are discovered in archaeological excavations every year. This is full of historical information. For instance a senatus consultum discovered recently in France helped shed some light on the murder of Germanicus.

While I, like any other classicist, would love to get our hands on the hidden treasures of the Vatican, to say that lack of access to them has brought Classics research to a halt is completely false.

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