Prospectus of The History of Classical Scholarship

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. I

“History of Classical Scholarship

The history of Classical Scholarship corresponds to the last of the four and twenty subdivisions ‘Philology’ suggested by Wolf; and is the first of the studies classical  introductory to ‘Philology’ in the scheme proposed Scholarship by Haase, and also in that elaborately carried out in the encyclopaedic work known as Iwan Müller’s Handbuch der klassischen Altertümswissenschaft (1886 f). A knowledge of the general course of the history of Classical Scholarship in the past is essential to a complete understanding of its position in the present and its prospects for the future. Such a knowledge is indispensable to the student, and even to the scholar, who desires to make an intelligent use of the leading modern commentaries on classical authors which necessarily refer to the labours of eminent scholars in bygone days. And the study of that history is not without its incidental points of interest, in so far as it touches on themes of such variety, and such importance, as the earliest speculations on the origin of language, the growth of literary and dramatic criticism at Athens, the learned labours of the critics and grammarians of Alexandria and Rome, and of the lexicographers of Constantinople. It also has its points of contact with the Scholastic Philosophy of the Middle Ages, with the Revival of Learning and the Reformation of Religion, and with the foundations of the educational systems of the foremost nations of the modern world.

Subdivisions of the Proposed Work

The volume now offered to the public is the first instalment of a History of Classical Scholarship from the sixth century B.C. to the present day. That history may of the proposed be most conveniently distributed over the following twelve divisions of the subject, but the dates of the limits assigned to each division must be regarded as only approximate.

I. The Athenian Age, from 600 to 300 B.C.

II. The Alexandrian Age, from 300 B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era.

III. The Roman Age of Latin Scholarship, from 168 B.C. to 530 A.D

IV. The Roman Age of Greek Scholarship, from the beginning of the Christian era to 530 A.D.

V. The Byzantine Age, or the Middle Ages in the East, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VI. The Middle Ages in the West, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VII. The Revival of Learning in Italy from 1350 A.D. to the death of Leo X in 1521, with the subsequent history of scholarship in Italy.

The modern history of scholarship in (VIII) France, (IX) Holland, (X) England, (XI) Germany, and (XII) the other nations of Europe and the United States of America.

The time to be traversed will ultimately extend to as much as two thousand five hundred years, and in the sequence of the centuries the narrative will pass from one home of learning to another, from Athens to Alexandria and Pergamon, from Pergamon and Alexandria to Rome, and from Rome to Constantinople. It will also range over the vast expanse of the Middle Ages in the West, as well as in the East of Europe, pausing for a time in Italy at the date of the death of Dante (1321). On some future day it may invite us to visit the studious haunts of Petrarch at Vaucluse and Arqua; to linger for a while in Florence and in other famous cities of Italy; and then to turn to the chief centres of scholarship in the northern lands which were successively reached by the Revival of Learning. For three centuries of this survey our interest will be mainly fixed on Athens, for three on Alexandria, for more than five on Rome; then, for eight centuries, it will be first concentrated on Constantinople, and afterwards diffused over the West of Europe. Rather less than six centuries will thus await our study at some not far distant time. In any future review of the period of exactly two centuries that divides the death of Dante from the death of Leo X, our attention will be almost exclusively confined to Italy, and, in the final period of little more than 380 years, we shall look forward to tracing the progress of scholarship in Italy and in other lands from the close of the Italian Renaissance down to the present day.

In that final period, even more than in the far earlier ‘Ages’ of the present volume, a history of scholarship must necessarily to a large extent consist of notices of the lives and works of individual scholars. In the case of the more important names, some estimate of the value of their services will naturally be expected. In the case of names of minor importance, the briefest mention must suffice; and, in a work so limited in compass as compared with the wide extent of the subject, many will unavoidably be omitted altogether. Every endeavour will however be made to give accurate details as to the dates connected with those who are mentioned in these pages. Names of special importance in the annals of literature or scholarship will also find a place in the chronological tables, in which an attempt will be made to give a brief conspectus of the more than nineteen centuries over which the present volume extends. The reader may remember that Cicero, in his Orator, tells us that his friend Atticus, in composing a comprehensive work extending over seven centuries, had succeeded ‘by a strict observance and specification of dates, without omitting any notable event, in including within the compass of a single volume the annals of seven hundred years’. Elsewhere he makes the author modestly ask, ‘what his work could possibly contain, that was either new or particularly useful to Cicero’, and himself vouchsafes a reassuring reply as to its ‘utility’, and as to its containing ‘much that was new to him’. I trust that the reader, whether in using the present work he finds much or little that is new to him, will at any rate find in its chronological tables, unpretentious as they are, the same kind of utility that Cicero found in the liber annalis of Atticus: — ut explicatis ordinibus temporum uno in conspectu omnia viderem[1].”

[1] Cicero, Orator 120, Brutus 14 f. For a conspectus of the periods covered by these tables, and the pages on which they will be found, see p. xi supra.

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