The End of the Past: Ancient Rome and the Modern West

Aldo Schiavone, Author, Margery J. Schneider, Translator
Aldo Schiavone, Author, Margery J. Schneider, Translator Harvard University Press $69 (288p) ISBN 978-0-674-00062-9
Hardcover - 229 pages - 978-0-674-00212-8
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-674-00807-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-674-00983-7
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Schiavone, a professor of Roman law at the University of Florence, addresses one of the most debated questions of European history: What brought about the collapse of ancient Graeco-Roman society? Or, as the author puts it, ""What separated imperial antiquity so irremediably from European modernity?"" Schiavone's analysis is very much in the mainstream of contemporary thinking on the subject (traditional explanations such as the rise of Christianity and the influx of barbarian hordes are no longer current). He argues that the seeds of the collapse can be found in the development of Roman institutions as far back as the second century B.C. These institutional flaws, combined with changes in the socioeconomic balance of the late Roman world, resulted in a cataclysmic upheaval of life in cities throughout the Roman West. Schiavone's analysis is based on a sophisticated blending of theory and empiricism, with more of the former than the latter. The difficulty with his solution, however, is that so little economic evidence survives that any conclusions must remain speculative. Deploring the increasing specialization of history, Schiavone says he has set out to write a book for both historians and a wider, nonprofessional audience. To be sure, he has taken care to translate extended citations from Greek and Latin authors, and traditional scholarly apparatus is unobtrusive, but, because of the complexity of the evidence, the book is unlikely to appeal to anyone other than scholars of the ancient and medieval world. (Apr.)
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