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Publisher: Journals Gateway
Daedalus (2016) 145 (2): 113–121.
Published: 01 April 2016
AbstractView article PDF
Every society has told stories about ancient times, but contemporary ancient history was the product of two main developments. The first was the invention of writing, which made scholarly study of the past possible, and the second was the explosion of knowledge about the world from the eighteenth century onward. Europeans responded to this explosion by inventing two main versions of antiquity: the first, an evolutionary model, was global and went back to the origins of humanity; and the second, a classical model, treated Greece and Rome as turning points in world history. These two views of antiquity have competed for two hundred and fifty years, but in the twenty-first century, the evidence and methods available to ancient historians are changing faster than at any other time since the debate began. We should therefore expect the balance between the two theories to shift dramatically. We close by considering some possible areas of engagement.