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Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World

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Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World offers nineteen linked essays on uses of the past in prominent and diverse cultures in ancient civilizations across the world. The contributors are leading experts in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Sinology, Biblical Studies, Classics, and Maya Studies.

This volume addresses crucial questions in current scholarship on historical consciousness and historiography. These questions include the formation of different traditions and the manifold uses of the past in particular socio-political contexts or circumstances; the ways in which these traditions and these types of cultural memory informed or contributed to the rise of more formal modes of historiography; interactions between formal modes of historiography and other traditions of historical consciousness during their transmission; and the implications of such interactions for cultural heritage, collective memory, and later understandings of history.

The chapters discuss many questions relating to the volume’s theme: theoretical and methodological approaches to ancient material; intellectual, didactic, and social circumstances and institutions; ideological motivations behind, and social functions of, interactions; conceptual, narratological, and literary processes and mechanisms such as synchronism, sequencing of events, periodization, mythological prologues, aetiological motifs, genealogical and chronological schemes, geographical and ethnographical features, temporal and stylistic devices; interchanges between different temporal frameworks such as mythical, legendary, ritual, chronological; the extent and variety of interactions such as manifestations in visual arts, monuments, cultic activities, music and dramatic performance; physical or textual channels for dissemination and transmission; stages and periods of interaction in different cultures, authors, and texts; convention and innovation; differences and relationships between scholarly and popular conceptions of history; and exchanges between local traditions and ones with a global perspective.

By taking an interdisciplinary approach, this volume situates the rise of formal modes of historiography within a larger context of the development of historical consciousness and a wider web of intercommunicating discourses. It also uncovers intellectual processes, literary mechanisms, and social institutions involved in the construction of history. During its construction, while many local traditions persisted, some ancients gradually went beyond the temporal and spatial limitations of their local traditions, arriving at a more extended and unified timespan, a wider geographical region, and a common origin.

Published: Feb 1, 2019

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Introduction John Baines, Henriette van der Blom, Yi Chen, Tim Rood
I: Mesopotamian and Hittite Traditions
Introduction Piotr Michalowski, Amir Gilan
1. The Domestication of Stranger Kings: Making History by List in Ancient Mesopotamia Piotr Michalowski
2. 'He Who Saw the Deep': History as Ritual in the Material World of Mesopotamia Paul Collins
3. 'I Swear that these are no Lies, it is Indeed True!' Gebhard Selz
4. The Hittites and their Past: Forms of Historical Consciousness in Hittite Anatolia Amir Gilan
II: Egyptian and Maya Traditions
Introduction John Baines
5. History and Historiography in the Material World: Ancient Egyptian Perspectives John Baines
6. Meaningful Pasts: On Social Logics and Conceptions of the Past in Ancient Egypt Marcelo Campagno
7. Telling Time: Historical Thinking and the Ancient Maya Simon Martin
III: Chinese Traditions
Introduction Glen Dudbridge†
8. Reflections and Uses of the Distant Past in the Chinese Bronze Inscriptions from the 10th to 5th Centuries BC Maria Khayutina
9. The Scene of Inquiry in Early Chinese Historiography David Schaberg
10. Three Moments of Definition in Chinese Historiography Glen Dudbridge†
IV: Biblical Traditions
Introduction Laura Feldt
11. Periodization in Biblical Historiography Peter Machinist
12. Mediating the Past in the Hebrew Bible: Fantastic Narative, Memory Techniques and Ritual in the Exodus Narrative Laura Feldt
V: Classical Traditions
Introduction Henriette van der Blom, Tim Rood
13. Waiting for Herodotus: The Mindsets of 425 BC Christopher Pelling
14. Historical Consciousness and the 'Aitiology' Rosalind Thomas
15. Myth and History Entwined: Female Influence and Male Usurpation in Herodotus' Histories Emily Baragwanath
16. 'Stories Embroidered beyond Truth': Reading Herodotus and Thucydides in Light of Pindar's Olympian I Jonas Grethlein
17. Thucydides and Myth Tim Rood
18. Fabula and History in Livy's Narrative of the Capture of Veii Christina Kraus
19. Roman Republican History in Imperial Rhetorical Exercises Henriette van der Blom