A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

EDITORS' PREFACE

FIFTY-years have now elapsed since Grote gave to the world the last volume of his great work. During these years the study of Greek history has been pursued incessantly, and works in many languages have been produced. This flood of literature has been of all kinds, ranging from comprehensive treatises on the whole subject to elaborate monographs on the minutest points. The ancient authorities have been re-edited, not only from the literary or classical point of view, but with special reference to their historical importance, and the evidence on which the historian depends has been collected under particular subject headings to facilitate comparison. Not only, therefore, is it practically safe to assert that no important literary evidence has been overlooked, but almost every passage has been analysed and re-analysed, until every possible explanation has been thoroughly reconsidered.

And, in the second place, we are now in possession of a mass of evidence which fifty years ago was lacking. This new evidence is of every kind - literary, epigraphic, numismatic, artistic. The very word 'archæology' has acquired a wholly new connotation. Half a century ago archæology was, to most people, merely the search for ancient objects of beauty, regarded as curios and collected by uncritical enthusiasts without reference to their relative age or their historical meaning. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that archæology was then merely a hobby; it is no exaggeration to say that it is now perhaps the most important part of the science of ancient history. The modern student of Greek history would do well to compare, for example, the evidence on which Thirlwall and Grote based their discussions of the problems connected with the first Delian League with that which is now accessible. Or again, let him compare an article on Troy contributed to the eighth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica with its successor in the edition of 1902. It may seem unnecessary to elaborate this point, yet it is only too easy to forget that the study of Greek history, as we now understand it, is widely different from what it was when Grote and Thirlwall began to write. Indeed it is impossible, without a full appreciation of this point, adequately to estimate the importance of their work. If we consider for a moment what has been done in recent years in connexion with Homeric and pre-Homeric civilization, we cannot but feel

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