Momigliano is one of the most prominent historians of the twentieth century. He wrote numerous essays on the history of Christianity. One of these works is his essay “Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century AD” (Momigliano 1963). In this essay, the author focuses on the way historians tried to highlight the events in the fourth century.
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The author focused on the dialogue between pagan and Christian writers (Breisach 2007). Momigliano (1963) mentions several historic events which had a great impact on the development of Christianity and the decline of Paganism.
However, it is important to remember that this essay is not just an account of some events as it is one of the first steps in historiography. This work contributed greatly to the process of historians’ reevaluation of the essence of history itself and their role.
As has been mentioned above, the essay in question deals with the confrontation between Pagans and Christians in the fourth century. One of the most important discoveries of Momigliano was that historians were affected by political or cultural systems which existed at certain periods. More so, the historian tried to reveal those political and cultural factors which had an impact on historical events and the way they were highlighted (Levitin 2012).
Momigliano, for instance, tries to explain why Christians did not want to be more tolerant of the pagans. The historian explains that Christians still remembered the way they were suppressed and did not want that to continue. The historian also gives reasons why the Christians created their written works in the way they did.
There was a specific need in making their beliefs more plausible and more grounded. This explains why Christians created a comprehensive chronology and refer to the existing, and strong at that time, Judaism (Drake 2002). It is very important that Momigliano provides specific examples as it becomes clear that there were factors which affected people’s decisions.
It is also necessary to note that Momigliano does not take sides. He is objective, which is essential for a historian. The author simply enumerates events and names. He also provides examples without trying to make something (or someone) look better or grander.
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Even though Momigliano tries to explain some events, he does not defend any decisions. This was not common for historians of the past centuries (before the twentieth century) as all historians tried to defend the social order they had been living in (Levitin 2012). Hence, this is one of the works that revolutionized historiography (or rather led to its creation and development).
People’s Opinion on the Work and the Way It Has Changed
Admittedly, the essay was seen as revolutionary as it outlined major ideas of historiography. Momigliano (1963) paid specific attention to the factors affecting historians and their works. The author also stressed the necessity to be objective and stop judging or glorifying. The author also revealed some universal laws.
For example, he noted that some concepts and even cultures (like Paganism) could reappear throughout history (Momigliano 1963). When the essay in question was written, the historian’s works had been regarded as one of the first steps to the development of historiography. Momigliano was seen as one of the first people to stress the need to be objective and question some facts mentioned in old historic books.
The attitude towards the essay has slightly changed. Now it is seen as one of the pillars of historiography. At present, no one questions the necessity to be objective when describing historic events. Everybody understands that historians have to be free from prejudice or influences of political or cultural biases.
Of course, no one would say that the essay can be described as revolutionary as the contemporary generation got used to obtain (or seek) objective information. Nonetheless, the reader also understands that in the middle of the twentieth century such essays were not numerous as the society (in some parts of the world) understood the value of the truth and true description of historic events.
On balance, it is necessary to state that Momigliano made a great contribution to the development of historiography and the essay under consideration is one of the examples of this discipline. The author focuses on the way historians and writers of the fourth century described events and created their works. It is also important to note that the essay can be a valuable source of information for young people as well as historians.
Thus, the essay sheds light on some reasons Christian had and the way they created their major works. It shows that people are often affected by political or cultural processes which affect their decisions. This essay also makes people understand the importance of thinking critically while reading works created by historians of previous centuries. People are now ready to understand that all the facts and data have to be questioned and considered carefully.
Breisach, Ernst. 2007. Historiography: Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Drake, H.A. 2002. Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance. Baltimore: JHU Press.
Levitin, Dmitri. 2012. “From Sacred History to the History of Religion: Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity in European Historiography from Reformation to Enlightenment.” The Historical Journal 55, no.4 :1117–1160.
Momigliano, A. 1963. “Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century AD.” Web.