I finally finished the book I borrowed from my Nottingham host in June. The argument, crudely paraphrased, is that modern assessments of the role of techne in the classical world (loosely technology, but also comprising what we would consider professions) have been unduly simplistic. Indeed, the implication is that the litterateurs of today have taken on board the opinion of litterateurs BCE without ever noticing, in their delightful naivete, that this was not the only extant world view.
It’s a scholarly work but written with a curious eye and a light touch, and, besides introducing some new concepts, reminded me of the individual grains of information which have to be organised to enable scholarship to take place – I noticed for the first time how systematic epigraphy, for example, contributes to the understanding of the ancient world by picking up unconsidered trifles and adding them together.
My only plaint, as a non-classicist, is the absence of a glossary. I coped for a while by creating my own with a big post-it as a book mark, noting such words as banausoi, tyche, kairos, atrekeia – but mislaid my pencil while reading the chapter on siege engine construction (gastraphetes, aphetas, katapeltikon) and subsequently foundered among aedificatores, tignarii and demiourgein. Lovely words, though.
And speaking of words, where do I find an acute accent when I want one in this blog??