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Authority and Expertise in Ancient Scientific Culture


Jason König, Michael Trapp, Harry Hine, Jill Harries, Daniel Harris-McCoy, Marco Formisano, Alice König, Aude Doody, Emily Kneebone, Nicolas Wiater, Daryn Lehoux, Ralph M. Rosen, Leah Kronenberg, Katharina Volk, Johannes Wietzke, Reviel Netz, G. E. R. Lloyd
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  • Date Published: July 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107629646

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About the Authors
  • How did ancient scientific and knowledge-ordering writers make their work authoritative? This book answers that question for a wide range of ancient disciplines, from mathematics, medicine, architecture and agriculture, through to law, historiography and philosophy - focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the literature of the Roman Empire. It draws attention to habits that these different fields had in common, while also showing how individual texts and authors manipulated standard techniques of self-authorisation in distinctive ways. It stresses the importance of competitive and assertive styles of self-presentation, and also examines some of the pressures that pulled in the opposite direction by looking at authors who chose to acknowledge the limitations of their own knowledge or resisted close identification with narrow versions of expert identity. A final chapter by Sir Geoffrey Lloyd offers a comparative account of scientific authority and expertise in ancient Chinese, Indian and Mesopotamian culture.

    • Brings a wide range of ancient disciplines into dialogue with each other, including not just 'scientific' fields, but also areas like law, historiography and generalship which are not usually studied within the history of ancient science
    • Pays attention not just to self-assertive styles of authority-construction but also to the importance of various kinds of self-effacement and anti-competitiveness
    • Provides original readings of a wide range of individual texts which may be less familiar to scholars and thereby helps to further the recent expansion of interest in ancient knowledge-ordering writing
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… anyone interested in the study of scientific/technical literature will certainly find something useful in one or another of the seventeen individual papers. … the copyediting is excellent and the volume is easy to use: it has copious notes and bibliography (860 titles); the original texts are often given in addition to the English translation; and there is a helpful index.' Emilie-Jade Poliquin, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107629646
    • length: 485 pages
    • dimensions: 243 x 169 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.846kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: self-assertion and its alternatives in ancient scientific and technical writing Jason König
    2. Philosophical authority in the Imperial period Michael Trapp
    3. Philosophical authority in the Younger Seneca Harry Hine
    4. Iurisperiti: 'men skilled in law' Jill Harries
    5. Making and defending claims to authority in Vitruvius' De architectura Daniel Harris-McCoy
    6. Fragile expertise and the authority of the past: the 'Roman art of war' Marco Formisano
    7. Conflicting models of authority and expertise in Frontinus' Strategemata Alice König
    8. The authority of writing in Varro's De re rustica Aude Doody
    9. The limits of enquiry in Imperial Greek didactic poetry Emily Kneebone
    10. Expertise, 'character', and the 'authority effect' in the Early Roman History of Dionysius of Halicarnassus Nicolas Wiater
    11. The authority of Galen's witnesses Daryn Lehoux
    12. Anatomy and aporia in Galen's On the Construction of Fetuses Ralph M. Rosen
    13. Varro the Roman Cynic: the destruction of religious authority in the Antiquitates Rerum Divinarum Leah Kronenberg
    14. Signs, seers and senators: divinatory expertise in Cicero and Nigidius Figulus Katharina Volk
    15. The public face of expertise: utility, zeal, and collaboration in Ptolemy's Syntaxis Johannes Wietzke
    16. The authority of mathematical expertise and the question of ancient writing more geometrico Reviel Netz
    17. Authority and expertise: some cross-cultural comparisons G. E. R. Lloyd.

  • Editors

    Jason König, University of St Andrews, Scotland
    Jason König is Professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews. This is the third in a trilogy of volumes arising from a Leverhulme-funded research project, 'Science and Empire in the Roman World', which ran from 2007 to 2010 in St Andrews; the other two volumes, Ancient Libraries and Encyclopaedism from Antiquity to the Renaissance, were both published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.

    Greg Woolf, Institute of Classical Studies, London
    Greg Woolf is Professor of Classics and Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London. He co-directed the project 'Science and Empire in the Roman World' at St Andrews and co-edited the two previous books resulting from it.


    Jason König, Michael Trapp, Harry Hine, Jill Harries, Daniel Harris-McCoy, Marco Formisano, Alice König, Aude Doody, Emily Kneebone, Nicolas Wiater, Daryn Lehoux, Ralph M. Rosen, Leah Kronenberg, Katharina Volk, Johannes Wietzke, Reviel Netz, G. E. R. Lloyd

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