Plato was known for his theories on politics, poetry and ethics.
One of history's most influential philosophers, Plato was known for his theories on politics, poetry, knowledge and ethics.

And, thanks to a newly discovered scroll buried by Mount Vesuvius, we now know that the ancient Greek thinker was sharp in his criticisms until the very end, spending his last moments blasting a slave-girl flautist's 'lack of rhythm'.

The centuries old passages detail Plato's final hours and reveal that the philosopher, who was suffering from a fever, had been listening to music and welcoming guests before he died at the age of 80 or 81 in around 348BC.

Herculaneum scroll
A text from the Herculaneum scroll that has not been seen for 2000 years
The scroll, known as the History of the Academy and penned by Philodemus, a philosopher and poet who lived in the 1st century BC, has been illegible since its discovery in a grand villa in Herculaneum, now known as Ercolano in Italy, in 1750.
Herculaneum scroll charred vesuvius eruption
© CopyrightThe scrolls are from a cache of more than 1,800 charred and carbonized papyri discovered in 1752 at a villa in Herculaneum thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law.
The papyrus had been buried under metres of ash at the house, believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, after Vesuvius erupted in AD79 and scholars have spent the last 250 years painstakingly trying to find a way to read its contents, The Times reports.

Now Professor Graziano Ranocchia of the University of Pisa and his colleagues have used techniques, including shortwave infrared hyperspectral imaging, which picks up variations in the way light bounces off the black ink on the papyrus, to decipher the document.

Professor Ranocchia described the scroll as 'the oldest history of Greek philosophy in our possession'.

The professor said that Plato welcoming his visitor, referred to in the writings as the 'Chaldean guest', showed that the great philosopher 'exercised his duties', adding that 'hospitality was sacred for the Greeks'.

The scroll also helped to confirm that Plato was buried at the Academy of Athens, which he founded, but adds the detail that the ancient thinker's resting place was in a designated garden within the university grounds.

It also suggests Plato was sold into slavery in 404BC or 399BC, before his popularity soared, which contrasts with the popular theory that he was sold in 387BC by ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius, to restrict the influence he exerted on the tyrant ruler's people.

Professor Ranocchia added: 'Thanks to the most advanced imaging diagnostic techniques, we are finally able to read and decipher new sections of texts that previously seemed inaccessible.

'For the first time, we have been able to read sequences of hidden letters from the papyri that were enfolded within multiple layers, stuck to each other over the centuries, through an unrolling process using a mechanical technique that disrupted whole fragments of text.'

The professor said that the work's full impact would only become clear in the years to come.