City and Country in the Ancient World

By John Rich; Andrew Wallace-Hadrill | Go to book overview

3

Modelling settlement structures in Ancient Greece: new approaches to the polis

T.E. Rihll and A.G. Wilson


1

Introduction

Had he asked himself the obvious question: why did that particular apple choose that unrepeatable moment to fall on that unique head, he might have written the history of an apple. Instead of which he asked himself why apples fell and produced the theory of gravitation. The decision was not the apple's, but Newton's.

Thus, with a literary flourish and a dash of popular folklore, Postan implies that the difference between history and physics is not intrinsic to the subject matter, but the question posed of it. Provocatively put, this is an extremely tendentious point of view. Apples are mindless. On the other hand, people are not just minds and history is not merely the history of ideas. Human life is rich and complex, and to catch and illuminate its many dimensions many approaches are necessary.

These approaches are, in the broadest sense, disciplinary: anthropology, archaeology, geography, history and sociology all have as their subject people and society. Their concurrence is apparent in, for example, ethnoarchaeology (see e.g. Binford 1983, and for anthropology and ancient history, Humphreys 1978), geoarchaeology (e.g. Butzer 1982), historical geography (e.g. Carlstein et al. 1978; Pred 1981), historical sociology (e.g. Giddens 1981; Abrams 1982; Skocpol 1984), and the Annales tradition (e.g. Febvre 1922). In this

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