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The End of the Past

The End of the Past

Ancient Rome and the Modern West

Aldo Schiavone

Translated by Margery J. Schneider

ISBN 9780674009837

Publication date: 09/30/2002

Aldo Schiavone

This searching interpretation of past and present addresses fundamental questions about the fall of the Roman Empire. Why did ancient culture, once so strong and rich, come to an end? Was it destroyed by weaknesses inherent in its nature? Or were mistakes made that could have been avoided—was there a point at which Greco-Roman society took a wrong turn? And in what ways is modern society different?
Western history is split into two discontinuous eras, tells us: the ancient world was fundamentally different from the modern one. He locates the essential difference in a series of economic factors: a slave-based economy, relative lack of mechanization and technology, the dominance of agriculture over urban industry. Also crucial are aspects of the ancient mentality: disdain for manual work, a preference for transcending (rather than transforming) nature, a basic belief in the permanence of limits.
Schiavone’s lively and provocative examination of the ancient world, “the eternal theater of history and power,” offers a stimulating opportunity to view modern society in light of the experience of antiquity.

Praise

  • In the middle of the second century A.D., the brilliance of Graeco-Roman civilization and the relative stability provided by the Pax Romana seemed to promise a benign, even glorious, future. With hindsight, we can see the ultimately fatal fissures that lay beneath the surface. In this difficult but often fascinating work, Schiavone examines the extent to which our own civilization is an heir to that glittering age. Did the long decline of the empire, which is generally assumed to have begun late in the second century, result in a permanent rupture in the thread of history? If so, does our cultural heritage own far more to the medieval world than to the classical? This is an important and complicated question, and to appreciate and comprehend Schiavone's thesis, knowledge of classical history is essential. Readers with the necessary background should find this a stimulating and provocative work.

    —Jay Freeman, Booklist

Author

  • Aldo Schiavone founded the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, where he was Professor of Roman Law. He is the principal investigator of a European Research Council Project on Roman legal thought, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the author of books including The End of the Past, The Invention of Law in the West, Spartacus, What Is Progress, and Pontius Pilate.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 5-7/8 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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