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  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: March 2008

Preface

Summary

This volume is unlike any which has preceded it. Earlier volumes have covered the whole of the Mediterranean and Near East. We hardly stray beyond Greece, deferring developments elsewhere to Volume VI. We are thus stressing that this is a period when, for the first and last time before the Romans, great political and military power on the one hand and cultural importance on the other, including the presence of historians to describe that power, are located in the same place. By contrast, Persia and the empires which preceded it were powerful but not articulate; the Jews were articulate but not powerful. This gives the volume a coherence which its predecessors and immediate successors lack.

Some of the coherence arises from the nature of our sources, which make an Athenian standpoint hard to avoid. That point was noticed by Sallust in the first century B.C.:

As I reckon it, the actions of the Athenians were indeed vast and magnificent, but rather less substantial than report makes them. But because writers of genius grew up there, Athenian deeds are renowned as the greatest throughout the world. The talent of those who did them is judged by the powers of praise of these outstanding literary geniuses. (Bell. Cat. 8.2—4)