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M.I. Finley

M.I. Finley was a professor of Ancient History at Cambridge and Master of Darwin College, until his retirement. He is the author of, among other books, The World of Odysseus and Aspects of Antiquity. His Politics in the Ancient World is due out next year.

Aristocracies

M.I. Finley, 22 December 1983

The durability of the Roman ruling class, despite the continuing loss of individual families, was perhaps unique in history. From the establishment of a republic at the end of the sixth century BC to, anyway, the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius seven hundred years later, the Roman state, which had grown by conquest from a small autonomous city on the Tiber to a great empire reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Euphrates River, was dominated and ruled by a relatively small aristocracy which had survived not only various threats from below but also the replacement of the republic by the monarchy of Augustus. There were all kinds of changes, of course, especially those made necessary by the vastly increased scale of activity, the vastly increased wealth and luxury, the vastly increased armies and military operations, and so on. Yet ‘durability’ is the correct term. Occasionally there were nicely illustrative personal examples: both Julius Caesar and his assassin Brutus could claim membership of lineages that traced their high status back half a millennium.

Modern Prejudice

M.I. Finley, 2 December 1982

Of the 53 short essays, book reviews, lectures and obituaries assembled in Hugh Lloyd-Jones’s two volumes, two were published in the year before he assumed the Regius Professorship of Greek in the University of Oxford, one was his Inaugural Lecture of 1960, and the remainder were written subsequently. I say this not as a prelude to yet another bad joke about ‘the other place’ but because it is impossible to appreciate the two volumes without some understanding of the course of Classical studies in 20th-century Britain and of the author’s role in them.

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Julian Barnes’s recent best-seller, Flaubert’s Parrot, quotes a letter from Flaubert to Feydeau: ‘When you write the biography of a friend you must do it as if you were taking

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Slaves and Citizens

Jon Elster, 3 June 1982

Some fifteen years ago, in the course of reading up the history of technology, I came across an article by M.I. Finley, of whom I then knew nothing, on ‘Technical Innovation and Economic...

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Defence of poetry

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 3 July 1980

Professor Stanford, who this year retires from the Regius Chair of Greek at Trinity College, Dublin after 40 years in office, feels that ‘creative literature is being used more and more as...

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