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Introduction to Ancient History 4: Evidence – transmission, selection, translation.

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1 Introduction to Ancient History 4: Evidence – transmission, selection, translation

2 Where to find evidence Secondary sources, above all. Sourcebooks, for some topics. Indices, when you know what works to search – but indices are variable. Electronic databases. Skim reading, if there s no index or you know what you re looking for. The more you study, the more you know.

3 Key Questions about Evidence Reliability: genre, author. Not just is the author reliable? but could the author have known? All depends on what you want to ask. Transmission: is this representative? Translation: what does it actually say? Interpretation: what does it mean?

4 Aristotle, Politics 1260a Hence there are by nature various classes of rulers and ruled. For the free rules the slave, the male the female, and the man the child in a different way. And all possess the various parts of the soul, but possess them in different ways: for the slave has not got the deliberative part at all, and the female has it, but without full authority, while the child has it, but in an undeveloped form.

5 Transmission & Selection Surviving evidence is not a random sample of everything that once existed. Perishability of different materials; role of chance in survival and discovery. What different people, especially in late antiquity (move from roll to codex) and early medieval period (copying) found valuable. Transmission not always reliable or complete.

6 Aristotle Recognised in antiquity as one of the key philosophical thinkers. However, out of fashion in late antiquity, especially in the West, and not much used by Christian writers. Many texts preserved by Arabs, until rediscovered in later Middle Ages. Further selection: choices made by medieval and modern philosophers – not historians.

7 Translation Every translation is an interpretation: approximate, subjective, debateable. Choice between literal rendition and attempting to capture the spirit. Problem of untranslatable concepts. Exact wording doesn t always matter; it depends on the question you re asking.

8 Aristotle, Politics 1260a It is therefore clear that the same feature will be found in the other cases too, so that most instances of ruling and being ruled are natural. For the rule of free over slave, male over female, man over boy, are all different, because, while parts of the soul are present in each case, the distribution is different. Thus the deliberative faculty in the soul is not present at all in a slave; in a female it is present but ineffective, in a child present but undeveloped.

9 Commentary If precise text is important, commentary can be useful: likely to discuss problems of transmission, meaning, context. Problem: not every text discussed. Problem: no limits to what could be commented on but practical limits to what is commented on; risk that your question won t be addressed.

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