Ancient History: Evidence and Models

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9780670809707: Ancient History: Evidence and Models

In this thoughtful and provocative study, M.I. Finley challenges the prevailing traditions of researching and writing about ancient civilizations. He questions, for example, the special status accorded to classic texts, exposes the false assumptions historians have made based on severely limited information, and presents the flaws inherent in conventional explanations of the Greek city-state. Emphasizing the need to ask the right questions in order to expand our understanding of life in the ancient world, the author suggests how historians might better deal with the evidence that is available, and offers alternative methods that can be used to reconstruct history.

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In this study, the author challenges the prevailing traditions of researching and writing about ancient civilizations. He questions, for example, the special status accorded to classic texts, exposes the false assumptions historians have made, based on limited information, and presents the flaws inherent in conventional explanations of the Greek city-state. Emphasizing the need to ask the right questions in order to expand our understanding of life in the ancient world, this work shows how historians might better deal with the evidence that is available and offers alternative methods that can be used to reconstruct history.

From Publishers Weekly:

In ancient times war was universally held to be a natural condition, so Rome's claim to fight only just wars, hypocritical though it may have been, reflected a genuine conflict of values. University of Cambridge historian Finley brings to these reflections on ancient history an insistence that we avoid imposing our own preconceptions on the way things actually were. His short polemic reminds us that primary sources are inexact, archeological evidence is scanty, statistics are suspect, and that the ancients liked to invent; Thucydides' chronicles notwithstanding, we will never be certain what Pericles told the Athenian assembly in 430 b.c. Finley knocks sociologist Max Weber for putting too much emphasis on Greek demagogues' charisma; rabble-rousers' platforms and promises are what swayed the masses, he maintains. He asserts that it is up to each historian to ask the right questions and supply a meaningful conceptual framework, and this underlying credo gives these scholarly essays point and pith. February
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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M. I. Finley
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