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View Poll Results: Was there a "Decline & Fall" of the Classical Historian in the 4th century?
NO 6 46.15%
YES 7 53.85%
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Old November 27th, 2016, 02:54 PM   #1

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Was there a "Decline & Fall" of the Classical Historian in the 4th century?


By "Classical Historian" I refer to the lineage of Greek and/or Roman historians extending from Herodotus and Thucydides in the 5th century BCE through to Ammianus Marcellinus in the 4th century CE. It would appear that the rise of "Ecclesiastical Historians" coincided with the decline and fall of the classical historian.

It would also appear that the early Christian historians relinquished impartiality, by relentlessly promoting orthodox Christianity and implacably blackening the unorthodox.

In his book "The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century", The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963, pp. 79—99, Arnaldo Momigliano writes the following:
St Augustine, who knew where to look for the real enemy, was not worried by contemporary pagan historians in the Latin tongue, such as Ammianus Marcellinus. Greek historians, such as Eunapius, worried him even less because he probably did not know them: his command of Greek was modest. But he was disturbed by the idealization of the Roman past which he found in fourth-century Latin antiquarians, poets and commentators of poets. He saw in them the roots of the new resistance against Christianity which became evident towards the end of the century. He went back to the sources of their antiquarianism, and primarily to Varro, in order to undermine the foundations of their work. He fought the antiquarians, the sentimental and emotional pagans, of his time — not the contemporary historians. The latter might be left to die from natural causes. But the former had to be fought. The result is to be seen in the De civitate dei. It is also to be seen in the work of St Augustine’s pupil Orosius who was induced by him to write against the readers of Livy, not against the readers of the Historia Augusta or of Ammianus.

All went according to plan, except that the pagan historians of the fourth century were not really going to die. They were only going to sleep for some centuries. They belonged to that classical tradition in historiography for which ecclesiastical history, whatever its merits, was no substitute. Though we may have learnt to check our references from Eusebius — and this was no small gain — we are still the disciples of Herodotus and Thucydides: we still learn our history of the late empire from Ammianus Marcellinus (31).
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Old November 28th, 2016, 06:27 PM   #2

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The practice of making history did not go into decline and just because a stupid Briton in the 18th century suggested it once, doesn’t mean that the vast historians agree with it.

As I have written for some days ago:

“Philosophy continued throughout Late Antique and Middle Ages. The vast majority of the classical philosophy are available to us thanks to the effort of Christian monasteries and Byzantine library where they studied and copied classical texts. By doing it, they preserved the vast cultural legacy for the posterity. Philosophy blossomed as well and as already mentioned Augustine, Isadore of Sevilla, Alcuin and Aquinas all discussed Plato/Aristotle.

Classical history continued throughout Late Antique and Middle Ages. The works of Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydedes, Diodoros, Plutarch, Ovid and Sallust are available to us today because they were studied and recopied throughout Middle Ages by Christian monasteries and Byzantine libraries until Guttenberg’s invention in late Middle Ages saved them for the eternity. And when history works were made in Middle Ages they tried to imitated and use the narrative techniques of Tacitus or Thycydedes.”



“Impartiality” was just as much normal for the Pagans as it was for the Christians. That the Christians tried to interpret aspects in correspond with their value is nothing news indeed and one is truly an idiot if one thinks that the Pagans did not do it. Herodotus’ and Aristotle’s portrait of the Persians are for instance dubious and contradicted by the archaeology today, and when Sappho tried to interpret the Iliad she downplayed the role of the men and instead praised and emphasized the feminine virtues of female characters such of Helena.

The notion of a “decline and fall” is a Gibbon buzzword, and his fabrication of a supposedly destruction of classical works are outdated Gibbonic teaching from the 18th century not worth to repeat apart to exhibit ones own ignorance. Like for instance the burning library of Alexandria is indeed a myth caused in the Edward Gibbon’s gibberish mind where he misinterpreted the sources so dismal:

Armarium Magnum: "Agora" and Hypatia - Hollywood Strikes Again

The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria

Though some may have their limited knowledge of history from references from the obsolete works of some Edward Gibberish works - and this is really a small gain as his works are outdated and rejected today for obvious reasons - we are still the disciples of critical minds and children of von Ranke: we learn our history from modern scholars in the 21th century instead of relying on outdated works from 1700's and perpetuate myths.

Last edited by El Cid; November 28th, 2016 at 06:33 PM.
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Old November 29th, 2016, 12:43 PM   #3

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Jack--the way you ask your question answers it. If you limit the range of historians you consider "classical" then it's axiomatic the school declined or became non-existent thereafter.
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Old November 29th, 2016, 01:04 PM   #4
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There were numerous historians writing throughout the late antique period and Early Middle Ages (the so-called 'dark ages'). There was certainly a bit of a dropoff, since the Roman empire which sustained Greco-Roman intellectual culture began to fall into crisis and civil war, and there was also the issue of the new religion and its internecine squabbles taking up a lot of ink, but it never entirely stopped.
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Old December 1st, 2016, 03:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
By "Classical Historian" I refer to the lineage of Greek and/or Roman historians extending from Herodotus and Thucydides in the 5th century BCE through to Ammianus Marcellinus in the 4th century CE. It would appear that the rise of "Ecclesiastical Historians" coincided with the decline and fall of the classical historian.

It would also appear that the early Christian historians relinquished impartiality, by relentlessly promoting orthodox Christianity and implacably blackening the unorthodox.

In his book "The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century", The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963, pp. 79—99, Arnaldo Momigliano writes the following:
St Augustine, who knew where to look for the real enemy, was not worried by contemporary pagan historians in the Latin tongue, such as Ammianus Marcellinus. Greek historians, such as Eunapius, worried him even less because he probably did not know them: his command of Greek was modest. But he was disturbed by the idealization of the Roman past which he found in fourth-century Latin antiquarians, poets and commentators of poets. He saw in them the roots of the new resistance against Christianity which became evident towards the end of the century. He went back to the sources of their antiquarianism, and primarily to Varro, in order to undermine the foundations of their work. He fought the antiquarians, the sentimental and emotional pagans, of his time — not the contemporary historians. The latter might be left to die from natural causes. But the former had to be fought. The result is to be seen in the De civitate dei. It is also to be seen in the work of St Augustine’s pupil Orosius who was induced by him to write against the readers of Livy, not against the readers of the Historia Augusta or of Ammianus.

All went according to plan, except that the pagan historians of the fourth century were not really going to die. They were only going to sleep for some centuries. They belonged to that classical tradition in historiography for which ecclesiastical history, whatever its merits, was no substitute. Though we may have learnt to check our references from Eusebius — and this was no small gain — we are still the disciples of Herodotus and Thucydides: we still learn our history of the late empire from Ammianus Marcellinus (31).
That is all rather vague and generic. Can we get specific examples of how the Classical historians were superior to their medieval followers. I don1t consider Augustine a "historian", but more a philosopher, and a theologian. I would think the works of the Venerable Bede, and Gregory of Tours would be more apt. Eusebius is a typical example? He is a primary source mainly due to the lack of other sources.

Also, there was a decline in other fields even before Constantine. We can see it in tne artistic quality of Constantine's arch, the newer work not executed as well as the older work borrowed for the arch. Such a decline could have carry over to the works of historians, I reckon.
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Old December 3rd, 2016, 12:49 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Cid View Post
As I have written for some days ago:



Classical history continued throughout Late Antique and Middle Ages. The works of Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydedes, Diodoros, Plutarch, Ovid and Sallust are available to us today because they were studied and recopied throughout Middle Ages by Christian monasteries and Byzantine libraries until Guttenberg’s invention in late Middle Ages saved them for the eternity. And when history works were made in Middle Ages they tried to imitated and use the narrative techniques of Tacitus or Thycydedes.”


The topic is classical history writing and the fact that "it went to sleep for a few hundred years" after the 4th century.

What could have caused classical history writing to decline other than the natural demand for a new form of history writing - "Ecclesiastical History"?


Quote:
“Impartiality” was just as much normal for the Pagans as it was for the Christians. That the Christians tried to interpret aspects in correspond with their value is nothing news indeed and one is truly an idiot if one thinks that the Pagans did not do it.
Christian Ecclesiastical Histories are not the same as Classical Histories, and one needs to examine and categorise the various "historians" in the 4th and subsequent centuries in order to deal with the OP.




These two articles do not specifically make any mention that the Ecclesiastical histories upon which they draw for their hypotheses are not in the same class as Classical Histories, and often include forged documents and pseudo-historical polemic. Their reliability as historical sources obviously needs to be evaluated.


What is the difference between Biblical Studies and Classical Studies?

ON PAGANS, JEWS, and CHRISTIANS

--- Arnaldo Momigliano, 1987


Chapter 1:

Biblical Studies and Classical Studies
Simple Reflections upon Historical Method



p.3

Principles of Historical research need not be different
from criteria of common sense. And common sense teaches
us that outsiders must not tell insiders what they should
do. I shall therefore not discuss directly what biblical
scholars are doing. They are the insiders.

What I can perhaps do usefully is to emphasise as briefly
as possible three closely interrelated points of my
experience as a classical scholar who is on speaking terms
with biblical scholars.

1) our common experience in historical research;

2) the serious problems we all have to face because of the
current devaluation of the notion of evidence and of the
corresponding over-appreciation of rhetoric and ideology
as instruments for the analysis of the literary sources;

3) what seems to me the most fruitful field of collaboration
between classical and biblical scholars.


Let me admit from the start that I am rather impervious to
any claim that sacred history poses problems which are not
those of profane history.





p.7

One is almost embarrassed to have to say
that any statement a historian makes must
be supported by evidence which, according
to ordinary criteria of human judgement,
is adequate to prove the reality of the
statement itself. This has three
consequences:


1) Historians must be prepared to admit
in any given case that they are unable
to reach safe conclusions because the
evidence is insufficient; like judges,
historians must be ready to say 'not proven'.

2) The methods used to ascertain the value
of the evidence must continually be scrutinised
and perfected, because they are essential to
historical research.

3) The historians themselves must be judged
according to their ability to establish facts.


The form of exposition they choosen for their presentation
of the facts is a secondary consideration. I have of course
nothing to object in principle to the present multiplication
in methods of rhetorical analysis of historical texts.

You may have as much rhetorical analysis as you consider
necessary, provided it leads to the establishment of the
truth - or to the admission that truth is regretfully
out of reach in a given case.

But it must be clear once for all that Judges and Acts,
Heroditus and Tacitus are historical texts to be examined
with the purpose of recovering the truth of the past.

Hence the interesting conclusion that the notion of forgery
has a different meaning in historiography than it has in
other branches of literature or of art. A creative writer
or artist perpetuates a forgery every time he intends
to mislead his public about the date and authorship
of his own work.

But only a historian can be guilty of forging evidence
or of knowingly used forged evidence in order to
support his own historical discourse. One is never
simple-minded enough about the condemnation of
forgeries. Pious frauds are frauds, for which one
must show no piety - and no pity.

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Old December 3rd, 2016, 01:04 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Vagamundo View Post
Jack--the way you ask your question answers it. If you limit the range of historians you consider "classical" then it's axiomatic the school declined or became non-existent thereafter.

I am obviously also interested in any possible reasons for the decline and fall of classical history writing. I have suggested that at least one of the causes was the popularity of writing "Ecclesiastical Histories".

Answers to the OP must also examine Ammianus who wrote at this time of transition as the Christian State wrestled for its political monopoly.

Arnaldo Momigliano on Ammianus Marcellinus

Ammianus Marcellinus is not a mystery in the sense in which the Historia Augusta and the tripartite Origo gentis Romanae are mysteries (28). He speaks about himself more than the majority of the ancient historians ever did. His keen eye is constantly on the lookout for individual features. He is a man full of delightful curiosity. Yet what do we ultimately know about Ammianus? He does not even tell us why he, a Greek from Antioch, chose Latin, as his literary language. He says very little about the theological controversies of his time and almost nothing about the religious feelings of the people he must have known best. Magic seems to interest him more than theology. Yet theology counted most. He was a soldier. Yet he is apparently not interested in military organizations. He has an uncanny ability to describe a character without defining a situation. He never gives himself away.

His histories might have for motto his own words:
  • Therefore, whoever ponders what I have told,
    should also carefully weight the rest
    which are passed over in silence;
    and like a reasonable person he will pardon me for
    not including everything which deliberate wickedness committed
    by exaggerating the importance of the charges.--- Ammianus, Res Gestae 24.3.1.

  • [/indent]

  • For example what events could Ammianus have passed over in silence?

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Old December 3rd, 2016, 01:11 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by Copperknickers View Post
There were numerous historians writing throughout the late antique period and Early Middle Ages (the so-called 'dark ages'). There was certainly a bit of a dropoff, since the Roman empire which sustained Greco-Roman intellectual culture began to fall into crisis and civil war, and there was also the issue of the new religion and its internecine squabbles taking up a lot of ink, but it never entirely stopped.

This issue of the new religion is to be also associated with the invention of the new historiographical form of "Ecclesiastical History" which flourished in the centuries in which the profane historians "slept". Eusebius, the inventor of this form, had many continuators but no rivals.
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Old December 3rd, 2016, 01:14 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
The topic is classical history writing and the fact that "it went to sleep for a few hundred years" after the 4th century.
And this is nonsense just as I have demonstrated it:

“Impartiality” was just as much normal for the Pagans as it was for the Christians. That the Christians tried to interpret aspects in correspond with their value is nothing news indeed and one is truly an idiot if one thinks that the Pagans did not do it. Herodotus’ and Aristotle’s portrait of the Persians are for instance dubious and contradicted by the archaeology today, and when Sappho tried to interpret the Iliad she downplayed the role of the men and instead praised and emphasized the feminine virtues of female characters such of Helena.





Quote:
What could have caused classical history writing to decline other than the natural demand for a new form of history writing - "Ecclesiastical History"?
Making of works of history did continue and as already mentioned:

Classical history continued throughout Late Antique and Middle Ages. The works of Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydedes, Diodoros, Plutarch, Ovid and Sallust are available to us today because they were studied and recopied throughout Middle Ages by Christian monasteries and Byzantine libraries until Guttenberg’s invention in late Middle Ages saved them for the eternity. And when history works were made in Middle Ages they tried to imitated and use the narrative techniques of Tacitus or Thycydedes.”




Quote:
These two articles do not specifically make any mention that the Ecclesiastical histories ...
And I made it clearly that I was talking about the Gibberish fabrication of a supposedly destruction of the great library of Alexandria in which you have perpetuated, which of course is utterly nonsense as it is a myth without foundation.


Quote:
What is the difference between [B]Biblical Studies and Classical Studies?
The first of studying of the bible, the second of ancient Greece and Roman as I did for some years ago and thus easily rejecting your Gibberish crap that does not correspond with what the academia state these days?
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Old December 3rd, 2016, 01:34 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
That is all rather vague and generic. Can we get specific examples of how the Classical historians were superior to their medieval followers.
In the OP Momigliano claims that Ecclesiastical history, whatever its merits, was no substitute for the classical tradition in historiography. I agree with this assessment.

Quote:
I would think the works of the Venerable Bede, and Gregory of Tours would be more apt.
Gregory was also involved in heresiology and hagiography. Bede is still an ecclesiastical historian. Even so the question is what happened to classical style history writing after Ammianus ?


Quote:
Eusebius is a typical example? He is a primary source mainly due to the lack of other sources.

He is considered the inventor of "Ecclesiastical History".

Quote:
Also, there was a decline in other fields even before Constantine. We can see it in tne artistic quality of Constantine's arch, the newer work not executed as well as the older work borrowed for the arch. Such a decline could have carry over to the works of historians, I reckon.

Perhaps. But Ammianus writes a classical style history after Constantine.

He appears to be very guarded - not about what he does say but - about what he does not say, about what he has passed over in silence.
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