The cultural meaning of antiquarianism in late antiquity



Ancient antiquarianism has been identified as a major source of inspiration for the development of modern historiographical practice from the Renaissance onwards. Yet it remains seriously understudied, in particular for late Antiquity, the crucial period of transition and transmission to the Middle Ages. The present project proposes to fill that gap. It proposes (1) to expand the range of sources by editing fragmentary and largely unknown late antique antiquarian authors; (2) to situate the genre in its proper socio-literary context, that is the continued practice of rhetoric in late antique society, at both local and imperial level; (3) to re-assess the cultural meaning of the genre by introducing new explanatory models for the popularity of the genre, models that avoid seeing the interest in the distant past as religious or political resistance against a Christian monarchy. In order to achieve a more subtle and multi-layered interpretation, the project espouses a double methodological perspective: it introduces the sociological concept of narrative identity into the study of late ancient antiquarianism and integrates the genre into current wider interest in the uses and functions of collective memory. The leading hypothesis is that late ancient interest in antiquarianism developed in interaction with an increased awareness that the world was undergoing fundamental changes, and hence an increased distance from the classical past that was idealised in education.




Externe medewerkers

Jan Willem Drijvers

Universiteit Groningen