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This book examines the conceptual and temporal frames through which modern Western historiography has linked itself to classical antiquity. In doing so, it articulates a genealogical problematic of what history is and a more strictly focused reappraisal of Greek and Roman historical thought. Ancient ideas of history have played a key role in modern debates about history writing, from Kant through Hegel to Nietzsche and Heidegger, and from Friedrich Creuzer through George Grote and Theodor Mommsen to Momigliano and Moses Finley; yet scholarship has paid little attention to the theoretical implications of the reception of these ideas. The essays in this collection cover a wide range of relevant topics and approaches and boast distinguished authors from across Europe in the fields of classics, ancient and modern history and the theory of historiography.
Any new interpreter must be aware of past interpreters: he who is not aware of past interpreters will still be influenced by them, but uncritically, because, after all, awareness is the foundation of criticism. The historian must therefore be able to account not only for all the data he possesses, but also for all the interpretations he is aware of.
Such was the critical task posed by a master of the discipline of history, whose object of study was not the past as a realm that delimits certain events and actions, but historical thought in context: the modes of speaking and writing through which the past locates itself within history and in doing so makes a claim to historical knowledge that both conditions and confronts that of the present. Readers of Arnaldo Momigliano's writings will remember his penetrating remarks about the critical role of the history of historiography in the field of historical research. The works of past historians, as this excerpt implies, do not enter the present fields of historical investigation as any other cultural product of the past. These works are undoubtedly part of the same historical matrix that gives rise to all other forms of cultural production. Yet, as an object of historical knowledge, past historical thought acquires a distinct relation to the subject of knowing constituting at once its precondition and its alternative.