The historiography on democratic Athens before George Grote

Leverhulme Trust

The way in which Athenian democracy has been described — that is, its historiography — has varied enormously over the last few centuries. The English historian George Grote (1794-1871) is typically seen as a foundational figure when it comes to the modern conception of ancient Greek politics. This position is mainly due to his History of ancient Greece, published in 12 volumes between 1846 and 1856. However, over the last few years scholars have begun to question Grote as the decisive figure and to search for other historians of ancient Athens, who pre-date Grote, and who made significant contributions to the modern conception of this period in ancient political thought. It has thus been suggested that the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century histories of ancient Greece produced by Temple Stanyan, John Gillies and William Mittford were important in precisely this respect. This workshop will build on this research, but it will also transcend it by focusing, first, on the early studies of Athenian democracy in the Italian Renaissance, particularly on Carlo Sigonio (Mirko Canevaro). Second, on the development of the study of inscriptions, and on their growing role as evidence for ancient Greece, and Athens in particular (Peter Liddel). Third, on the importance of the German historian of philosophy Jacob Brucker and his Historia critica philosophiae (1742-44). Fourth, on the interaction between the progress of scholarship on Athens and eighteenth and nineteenth century politics and political theory (Matteo Zaccarini and Paschalis Kitromilides).

We thank the Leverhulme Trust and the Centre for Research Collections of the University of Edinburgh for their support in the organisation of this workshop.

Organised by Mirko Canevaro (Edinburgh) and Leo Catana (Copenhagen). For further information, please contact Please do get in touch if you would like to attend: places are very limited.

Programme at a glance

10.00 – Welcome

10.20-11.00 – Mirko Canevaro (Edinburgh), ‘Carlo Sigonio, De repubblica atheniensium: The Renaissance beginnings of the study of Athenian institutions’

11.00-11.20 – Coffee break

11.20-12.10 – Peter Liddel (Manchester), ‘The collection and publication of inscriptions before Boeckh’

12.10-13 – Leo Catana (Copenhagen), ‘The Historiography of the Athenian Democracy beyond Grote: The Significance of Brucker’s Historia critica philosophiae’

13.00-14.00 – Lunch Break and time to see the exhibit

14.00-14.50 – Pachalis Kitromilides (Athens), ‘Greek political thought and modern ideas of liberty’

14.50-15.10 – Coffee break

15.10-16.00 – Matteo Zaccarini (Edinburgh/Bologna), ‘The Athens of the north? Scotland and the national struggle for the Parthenon in the 18th and 19th century’

16.00-16.30 – Further discussion and further time to see the exhibit





Acropolis with Parthenon temple in Athens
May 04 2018 -

The historiography on democratic Athens before George Grote

This one-day workshop will be complemented by an exhibit of the key books, from the Italian Renaissance to the nineteenth century, discussed by the contributors. (Published 24 April, 2018)

Centre for Research Collections, 6th floor, Main Library, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LJ