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BOOK REVIEWS 551 Gerald A. Press. The Development of the Idea of Histo~ in Antiquity. McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Ideas, ed. Richard H. Popkin, Vol. 9. Kingston and Montreal: McGilI-Queen's University Press, 198u. Pp. xii + t79. $95.00. When genius touches human thought, as it did with the publication of Edward Gibbon 's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Vol. 1, t776 ), succeeding generations ponder and react against an imposed--if convincing--interpretation of human events. The term "history" suggests variant meanings to different schools of thinking,' as much as it connotes a hope of certainty about the past to structural anthropologists and their kin among the sociobiologists and psychohistorians, * but the underpinnings of Gibbon's thesis haunt Western historians as they reiterate the erstwhile "ebbs and flows" of empires, s cultures, philosophies of history, and technical innovations or simplified economic theories. 4 Gibbon assumed that Christianity remodeled the Roman Empire (for the worse, in the long run) and the implicit premise throughout Decline and Fall is that Christians also reshaped how one viewed the past in terms of the coming of Christ. Everything supposedly led up to the New Era and everything in the New Era in turn would lead to the te/os of Final Judgment. Press is well aware of these long-held views and their impact upon historiography in the Christian West, and his study seeks to redress a perceived, corollary warping by modern ancient historians. His hopes are not uncommon and his use of primary sources in Greek and Latin to investigate what the ancients "really meant" by historia in given periods of antiquity is commendable. "Inquiry" is the most ordinary translation of h/stor/a, and Press documents this meaning among the Greeks and speakers of Greek from Homer's day through Rome's dominion of the eastern Mediterranean. One is, however, warned of the faults of Press's approaches by his muddling of Herodotus and how he gained access to sources of information. In his consideration of how the Homeric poems, the Iliad and Odyssey, might have molded Greek receptivity to the manners of Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, and thereby to the methodologies of the pre-Socratic "Nature t On this vexed topic, v/d. esp. M. I. Finley, "Myth, Memory and History" and "Generalizations in Ancient History" in The Use and Abuse of History(New York: Viking, 1975) , 11--33 and 60-74. Vid. also Chester G. Starr, "Reflections on the Problem of Generalization" in L. Gottschaik , ed., Generalization in the Writing of Histo~ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 3-18. 2 Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors: Ps3cho-H~stmy.Quanto-Historyand Histo~ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, t974). 3 David P. Jordan, Gibbonand his Roman Empire (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971). 4 "Scientific methodologies" dominate this very popular topic among scholars of antiquity, e.g., T. F. Carney, The EconomiesofAntiquity (Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1973): content analysis; Richard Duncan-Jones, The Economy of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: University Press, 1982): "Quantitative Studies" is the subtitle; and M. I. Finley, The Ancient Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973): reaction against a//modern theories. Marxism or antiMarxism also plays a heavy role, and one can begin best by considering M. I. Rostovtzeff, Social and EconomicHistoryof the Roman Empire, ~ vols., 9d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957). 559 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 24:4 OCTOBER 1986 Philosophers" (to employ Aristode's term for them), Press offers the incredibly weak device of lexicon readings, taken in isolation. His research procedure is all too patent : citations taken from standard reference works (e.g., the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, or the Diels and Kranz, Fragme~ der Vorsokra2ih,r) are gathered together and presented as a finite bundle of evidence. Press signals his limits with statements like "h/stfr and its cognates are found but three dmes" (25 with n. 7). In this particular example, the word index to Diels and Kranz becomes the final authority , indicating that Press is unaware of the numerous, recent studies of pre-Socratic philosophers and their piquandy fragmentary remnants, s Once we reach Polybius and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 551-554
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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