7 Books We Lost to History That Would Have Changed the World

#3. Hermocrates, by Plato

What is it:

The rumored third book to Plato's little unified field theory trilogy. The first two were Timaeus and Critias and are basically transcriptions of one of the greatest, most influential thinkers to ever live discussing how the universe, uh, happened.

If Hemocrates was anything like the first two books in the series, it would have dealt with some brilliant, advanced concepts (like molecules and the Golden Ratio), and would have influenced thinkers and scientists for years to come. Slightly more important and infinitely more badass, Timaeus-Critias also serve as the seminal source for the theory of Atlantis.


Luckily there are other sources.

Since the second book ends rather abruptly (mid-sentence), it's only logical that the third dialogue would have covered the fate of Atlantis, along with the influence it would have had on thought that mattered in non-fictional universes.

Why it's Awesome:

If Disney, Mother Goose and Indiana Jones were all willing to find Atlantis, then Hermocrates has got to be worth at least a bathroom-reading. Besides, Plato's brief descriptions of Atlantis sound like everything James Cameron promised us about Avatar: a huge empire, a utopian society and a spectacular war that results in the empire's collapse (minus the plot stolen from the Dances With Wolves DVD on loan from Billy Zane).

Why You'll Never Read It:

Nobody has any clue where it is. Some have even speculated that Plato never got around to finishing it. But since most scholars dismiss Atlantis as something Plato probably pulled out of his ass to make a point, it may not be as big a loss as the $17 you burned watching Dances With Wolves in 3-D.

#2. Ab urbe condita libri, by Livy

What is it:

It detailed the entire history of Rome from its Trojan forefathers to the reign of Caesar Augustus, 800 years later--which means it includes a shitload of information on the subject not written down anywhere else. This bastard weighed in at 142 freaking volumes and anyone who ever got their hands on any part of it agreed that it was absolutely astounding.

After the West fell to ruin, Livy's beast became the single most sought-after book from antiquity, all without a single splash of gratuitous violence or naked women.


Actually, scratch that. There was both. They were Romans.

Why it's awesome:

Imagine finding an ancient copy of "Egyptian architecture" to settle once and for all how they built pyramids. Not the "Time Life Books"-type? That's cool, because you would have also been able to look up all the Gladiator records. All the mysteries of Ancient Rome would be at least kind of answered. Granted you'd probably never be able to read the whole book on your own; just owning one copy of this megalodon would pit every university on Earth in a bidding war to buy it from you.

But just the parts of Livy's histories that survived helped Italy invent a little something called "the Renaissance," and the books themselves were worshiped like goddamn monoliths.

Why You'll Never Read It:

It took Europe 1,000 years to realize that old books might be important after Rome fell, so when the Italians started collecting every scrap of paper left in Rome's locker, all they found were 35 books from the series (107 short). As if to rub it in from beyond the grave, everything the Italians found was fucking brilliant, and the basis for pretty much everything we know about Ancient Rome. So unless the Romans had the whole book saved on an enormous underground thumb drive, the best you can do is watch Gladiator.

#1. The Book of the Wars of the Lord, by God(?)

What is it:

A lost work that allegedly chronicles the wars fought by Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites as they pounded their way through the Holy Land. Yes, the Jews were still the underdogs, but bear in mind they had a little super-weapon called the Ark of the Covenant to schlep around with them.


Pictured: "Power of God."

Why it's Awesome:

The importance of a book allegedly written by God (either directly or indirectly), cannot be overstated. If this book had survived, it would be in the same category as The Bible. You know. The greatest-selling and most influential book in the history of time. Hell, there are religious sects that are formed based on single sentences in the Bible and full religions dedicated to finding secret codes within the text. Any addition or change to The Bible, even if they're slight, would have had a huge impact on the face of history.

Beyond all that, the story sounds badass. You've got a long quest, the most badass Jews in history and a Death Star-esque secret weapon. For those keeping score at home, that's a God-authored version of Lord of the Rings plus Inglorius Basterds plus Star Wars plus HOLY SHIT CAN YOU EVEN COMPREHEND HOW AWESOME THAT IS?!

Why You'll Never Read It:

Unless it turns up somewhere on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the only other place it could be found is in God's head. We suppose we'll just have to turn to seedy fan fiction if we ever hope to see The Fellowship of the Inglorious Jedi.

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And find out about some mysteries that these books could have explained, in 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain. Or check out some books you should totally (not) buy your child, in 10 Great Books For (Traumatizing) Children.

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 1.8.2010) to see DOB's re-imagining of the Gospel of Eve.

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