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MOMIGLIANO, Arnaldo Dante Arrone

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  • Date of Birth: September 05, 1908
  • Born City: Caraglio, Piedmont
  • Born State/Country: Italy
  • Parents: Riccardo Salomone, town councilman and acting mayor of Caraglio, & Ilda Levi M.
  • Date of Death: September 01, 1987
  • Death City: London
  • Death State/Country: England
  • Married: Gemma Segre, 1932.
  • Education:

    Study at Turin & Rome; testi di Laurea, Turin, 1930.

  • Dissertation:

    La composizione della storia di Tucidide (Testi di Laurea, Turin, 1930),

  • Professional Experience:

    Prof. Incaricato, Greek history, U. Rome 1932-6; prof. titolare di Storia Romana, Turin, 1936-9; supernumerary prof., 1945-64; research, Oxford, 1939-46; reader anc. hist., Bristol, 1947-51; prof. anc. hist., University College, London, 1951-75; Alexander White Professor at the University of Chicago, 1959 (visiting), 1975-8, 1979-84; Sather Prof., u. of California, 1962; Gray Lectr., Cambridge, 1963; Lauro de Bosis Lectr. & vis. prof., Harvard, 1965; Jackson Lectr., 1968; Jerome Lectr., U. of Michigan, 1971-2; scholar, Dumbarton Oaks, 1972; Trevelyan Lectr., Cambridge,1973; Flexner Lectr., Bryn Mawr, 1974; also. meme., All Souls Coll., Oxford, 1975-82; Northcliffe Lectr., U. of London, 1977; Efroymson Lectr., Hebrew Union Coll., 1978; Greenfield Lectr., Oxford, 1978-82;Professore Ordinario di Storia Romana in Soprannumero of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 1964-87; honorary knight commander of the British Empire (KBE), 1974; co-editor, Rivista Storica Scienze Torino; mem. Socio Nazionale Acad. dei Lincei, Arcadia, Accad. Scienze Torino; corresponds. men., German Archaeological Inst.; for. meme. Royal Dutch Acad.; Institut de France; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; American Philosophical Soc.; hon. men. American Historical Assn.; hon. fell., University College, London; Warburg Inst., London; Feltrinelli Prize Acad. Lincei, 1960; Kaplun Prize, U. of Jerusalem, 1975; Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies, British Academy, 1981.

  • Publications:


    Sommario di scoria delle civiltà antiche, 2 vols. (Florence, 1934 with many reprints); The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (ed.) (Oxford, 1963; Italian translation by Anna Davies Morpurgo as II conflitto era paganesimo e cristianesimo nel secolo IV. Turin, 1968); Studies in Historiography (London and New York, 1966); The Development of Greek BiographyFour Lectures. (Cambridge, MA, 1971); Introduzione bibliografica alia storia grecafino a Socrate (Florence, 1975); Alien Wisdom. The Limits of Hellenization (Cambridge, 1975; German translation as Hochkulturen im Hellenismus: Die Begegnung der Griechen mit Kelten, Juden, Römern und Persern [Munich, 1979]); Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography (Oxford, 1977); Problèmes d’historiographie ancienne et moderne (Paris 1983); Sui fondamenti della storia antica (Turin, 1984); Studies in Historiography (New York: Garland, 1985); Tra storia e storicismo (Pisa, 1985); Storia e storiografia antica (Bologna, 1987); Pagine ebraiche (Turin, 1987); On Pagans, Jews, and Christians (Middletown, CT, 1987); Saggi di storia della religione romana (Brescia, 1988); The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1990); Essays on Ancient and Modern Judaism, ed. Silva Berti (Chicago & London, 1994).


    Prime linee di storia della tradizione Maccabaica (Rome, 1930; 2d ed., Turin, 1931; 3d ed., Rome, 1968); L’opera dell' imperatore Claudio (Florence, 1932; English translation by W. D. Hogarth as Claudius: the Emperor and his Achievement.Oxford, 1934; 2d ed., 1961); Filippo il Macedone. Saggio sulla storia greca del IV secolo a. C. (Florence, 1934; 2d ed., 1987); Laformazione della moderna storiografia sull’ impero Romano (Turin, 1938); George Grote and the Study of Greek History. An inaugural lecture delivered at University College, London, 19 February 1952 (London, 1952); Cassiodorus and the Italian Culture of His Time (London, 1956. Orig. published PBA 41 (1956) 207-245); Jacob Bernays (Amsterdam and London, 1969); Second Thoughts on Greek Biography (Amsterdam and London, 1971); How to Reconcile Greeks and Trojans (Amsterdam & London, 1982).

    Articles (Collected)

    Contributi alia storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico I, 8 parts in 11 volumes (Rome, 1955-87); Studies on Modern Scholarship ed. G.W. Bowersock & T.J. Cornell (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1994).

    Articles (Selected)

    “Ancient History and the Antiquarian.” JWI 13 (1950) 285-315; “An Unsolved Problem of Historical Forgery: The Scriptores Historiae Augustae," JWl 17 (1954) 22-46; “An Interim Report on the Origins of Rome,” JRS 53 (1963) 95-121; “History and Biography” and “Greek Culture and the Jews,” in The Legacy of Greece: A New Appraisal ed. M.I. Finley (Oxford, 1981).

  • Notes:

    Born in Caraglio (Cuneo), Momigliano was of a Jewish family that can be traced back to the fourteenth century in Piedmont and Savoy, and he was proud of this heritage. “In a sense, in my scholarly life I have done nothing else but try to understand what I owe both to the Jewish house in which I was brought up and to the Christian-Roman-Celtic village in which I was born”—thus he himself described the powerful influence exerted on him by his place of origin (Contributi alia storia degli studi classici e del mondo attico, vol. 8, Rome, 1987, 432). His studies at the Universities of Turin and Rome brought him into the orbit of Gaetano De Sanctis (1870-1957) and Augusto Rostagni (1892-1961); later he owed much to Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944) and Benedetto Croce (1866-1952). By 1932 he had already been appointed Professore Incaricato di Storia Greca at the University of Rome, and in 1936 he became Professore Titolare di Storia Romana at the University of Turin. Thus, early in his life an outstanding academic career seemed to lie open to him.

    Then began the bitterest period of his existence. Momigliano lost his position on ethnic grounds, and while he himself was able to continue his scholarly work in Oxford (thanks chiefly to the help of Hugh Last (1894-1957) and Isobel Henderson (1905-1990), both his parents were put to death in a German extermination camp, a fate shared by nine others of his relatives.

    After the war, although professorships were offered him in his homeland, first in Turin and later in Pisa, Momigliano remained in Great Britain. From 1947 to 1949 he worked as Lecturer, from 1949 to 1951 as Reader in Ancient History at the University of Bristol, and after 1951 he was Professor of Ancient History at University College, London. Yet his teaching soon found an even wider audience. In rapid succession prestigious guest professorships and lectureships were offered to him in bothEurope and America. Momigliano taught in Israel and at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, at Chicago, and at Harvard. But it was above all in Italy that he won outstanding recognition through his yearly seminars at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.

    Meanwhile, his influence and his work were being acknowledged with the highest academic honors. Momigliano was an honorary Knight of the British Empire; member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the British Academy, the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, the Arcadia, the Istituto di Studi Romani, the Istituto di Studi Etruschi, the Royal Dutch Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institut de France, and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut; and an honorary member of the American Historical Association. Venerable universities of Europe, the United States, and Israel awarded him honorary doctorates, as did the Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaften of the Philipps-Universität Marburg in 1986. Momigliano was also awarded the Kenyon Medal of the British Academy, the Premio Feltrinelli, the Premio Cantoni of the University of Florence, the Kaplun Prize of Hebrew University (Jerusalem), the Premio Sila, the Premio Viareggio Internazionale, a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and many other honors.

    This glory is the visible reflection of an impressive scholarly lifework. His essays, addresses, and reviews (a collection of specialized studies that is characteristic of Momigliano’s work) are available now in the eleven volumes of the eight-part Contributi alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico. The bibliographies of his oeuvre (Quarto Contribute) . . . , Rome, 1969: 669-719; Sesto Contributo . . . , Rome, 1980: 845-860; Ottavo Contributo ..., Rome, 1987:435-449) list over seven hundred titles, up to July 1986, in the most important languages of the Western world, Momigliano’s researches and his contributions to scholarship extend over widely disparate fields. They include investigations on the sources of ancient history in the broadest sense of the word; historical interpretations; above all, works on ancient and modern historiography; his Sommario di storia delle civiltà antiche, a widely used Italian textbook; and, not least, his stimulating reviews, such as have appeared in Gnomon and elsewhere. All this can be described only briefly here.

    With his Turin tesi di laurea, La composizione della storia di Tucidide (1930), which was published by the Turin Academy in its series Memorie, Momigliano dealt with the question, then under lively discussion, of the genesis and construction of Thucydides’ history. He regarded it “as an honor” to be in essential agreement with Wolfgang Schadewaldt. If his choice of theme here was rather conventional, the Prime linee di storia della tradizione Maccabaica, which was published in the same year (1930) and later reprinted, first testified to his never-flagging interest in the problems of Jewish tradition and history. The unique character and the chronology of the First Book of  Maccabees, the problem of the doublets in the Second Book, the question as to the use of Jason of Cyrene, and finally the legend of a relationship between the Jews and the Spartans were the major subjects of these learned philological and historical researches. As in several later studies on Philo and Flavius Josephus or in the work on the oriental factors in post-exilic Hebrew and in Greek historiography, Momigliano was less interested in isolated source-critical analysis of individual authors than in illuminating the interrelations between oriental, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman forms of thought.

    His interest in interrelations led him next to the long-neglected Greek historians of the fourth, third, and second centuries BCE., to Ephorus, Theopompus, and Timaeus of Tauromenium, and to Polybius. But he was also led back to Herodotus, and Momigliano’s Herodotean studies are characteristic of his priorities as well as of his methods. Momigliano was fascinated with Herodotus’ contribution to the development of historiography, especially because this historian, above all, had recourse to the oral tradition and because he sought to acquire on his travels ethnographic and historical information about the lands of the Persian Empire. In order to gain a balanced total picture of the author, Momigliano not only analyzed all the ancient reproaches against Herodotus but also investigated the critical response to his work from the fifteenth century to the present. He justified his method as follows: “The history of Herodotus’ posthumous struggle against his detractors is a significant chapter in the history of historical thinking; it is also, in my opinion, an important key to the actual understanding of Herodotus” (in Herodot, ed. W. Marg, Darmstadt, 1962, 139).

    The monograph The Development of Greek Biography was judged by F. W. Walbank in 1973 to be “easily the most important contribution to the subject since Leo.” This superbly written small work, which also drew upon all modern discussions of the role of biography, dealt chiefly with the connections and differences between biography and history. In contrast to Leo, who had tied Greek biography firmly to the Peripatetic school, and in contrast to Dihle, who had underscored the connection with the Socratics, Momigliano reached back to the preliminary stages of biography and to oriental influences in the fifth century BCE. He thus attempted to sketch out a complex total picture while yet laying primary stress on the influential works of the fourth centuryBCE.

    Momigliano turned to the problem of the sources for the history of late antiquity only after the Second World War. But his first contribution to the study of this epoch, “An Unsolved Problem of Historical Forgery: The Scriptores Historiae Augustae” (1954), was to prove one of the most stimulating works in this field. It was followed by studies on Cassiodorus and the Italian culture of his time, on the Anicii and the Latin historiography of the sixth century, and finally on Ammianus Marcellinus. His 1981 essay on Greek historiography, contributed to the volume Griechische Literatur edited by E. Vogt for the Neues Handbnch der Literaturwissenschaft, restored a personal balance to work on this strand of the ancient tradition.

    At the center of Momigliano’s historical interpretations stood the following group of subjects: the history of the Hellenistic Age, the early Roman Republic, the Principate in the first century CEand late antiquity. The 1934 monograph Filippo il Macedone. Saggio sulla storia greca del IV secolo a. C. was Momigliano’s first great contribution to the study of Hellenistic history in the broader sense. The book was not a biography of Philip II; rather, it dealt primarily with the intellectual history and the political conceptions of his age, and it was animated as much by Momigliano’s disagreements with Isocrates as by those with Droysen.

    In 1935 he began his great inquiry into the historical origin and the modern meaning of the concept of the Hellenistic Age, and further studies on this topic followed. They culminated in the monograph Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization (1975), which was published in German translation in 1979 (Hochkulturen im lenismus). This was Momigliano’s most original and most personal book. Here he investigated the cultural, and especially the religious, connections between the Greeks on the one hand and the Celts, Jews, Romans, and Persians on the other, and in this connection he expressed parenthetically his own conviction: “The triangle Greece-Rome-Judaea is still at the centre and is likely to stay at the centre as long as Christianity remains the religion of the West” (11).

    The problems of the early Roman Republic had occupied Momigliano as early as the nineteen-thirties, when he sought to understand the individual Roman magistracies, the comitia centuriata, such figures of Roman mythology as Tanaquil, GaiaCecilia, Acca Larenza and Thybris Pater, and key Republican concepts such as “Terra marique” and “Camillus and Concord.” Then, after the Second World War, renewed interdisciplinary and international discussion on the origins of Rome called him back to the field. A fundamental Forschungsbericht (1963) was followed by specialized studies on patricians and plebeians, the rex sacrorum, the praetor maximus, and the origins of the Republic, as well as on Greeks, Trojans, and Romans.

    The results of these individual researches were finally brought together in “The Origins of Rome,” Momigliano’s great contribution to the seventh volume of the second edition of the Cambridge Ancient History (= Settimo Contributo…., Rome, 1984: 379-436). In an impressive examination of the results of archaeological, philological, religious-historical, ethnological, and historical researches, Momigliano here laid great stress on the Greek influences, direct or indirect, on early Rome. At the same time, however, he underscored the significance of the Romans’ conscious decision to follow a middle way between the Greeks and the Etruscans, a choice that he found was documented symbolically in Rome’s connection with Troy.

    The 1932 monograph L’opera dell' imperatore Claudio, which appeared two years later in English translation, depicted above all the scholarly character of Claudius. (Perhaps a certain inner affinity to this princeps was at work here.) The work impressively displayed the knowledge of history and the will to reform, but also the religious policies and the “politica di accentramento,” of this Roman ruler who had long been discredited by biased judgment. For Momigliano’s basic understanding ofthe Roman imperial period, the monograph La formazione della moderna storiografia sull’ impero Romano (1938) was even more important. Momigliano’s fundamental conviction here was that the customary absolute separation between a profane history, as it were, of the Imperium Romanum and the history of Christianity and of the Christian Church was dangerous. He insisted instead that both entities be conceived as parts of a unified historical process and that their interconnections be duly taken into account. To illustrate the necessity of doing so he persuasively (cf. W. Enßlin, Gnomon 19 [1943] 61-62) sketched the development of the modem conception of the Roman Empire from Lenain de Tillemont to Ranke. The collection The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century, which Momigliano edited in 1963, along with several specialized investigations show that he himself lived up to his own demands.

    Momigliano’s strongest influence was in the field of the history of historiography. His works on the history of scholarship were, at first, part of a complex process of research, but after the Second World War they advanced ever further into the foreground. His London inaugural lecture of 1952 on “George Grote and the Study of Greek History” was in this case exemplary. Momigliano showed how greatly Grote’s life, his values, and his liberal political ideas influenced his judgments on Greek history, and he also determined Grote’s place in a total overview of the conceptions of Greek history in the framework of the European tradition.

    Whether in extensive Forschungsberichte, in original insights, such as those in “Ancient History and the Antiquarian” (1950), in studies on the critical response to individual ancient authors, or in his many smaller papers and essays on the foremost representatives of historiography and Altertumswissenschaft from the days of the Renaissance humanists to the present, Momigliano was always intent on stimulating and deepening our understanding of the history of these disciplines. He was intent on comprehending the modes of thought, the judgments, and the methods of individual scholars not only from the point of view of the genealogy of their particular disciplines; specifically, he sought to take into account the leading ideas of their times and the nature of their own lives. In all this he insisted on well-grounded knowledge and the highest standards of accuracy. To him it was self-evident that the student of the history of historiography must also be familiar with the sources upon which the authors whom he studied had built. Since he kept a critical eye on all new developments and all new tendencies in the whole range of humanistic studies, he ultimately felt called upon to defend the objectivity of historical research against tendencies to distort history with ideology or rhetoric.

    Numerous collections of Momigliano’s shorter works have brought them to a wide audience. To name only a few: Studies in Historiography (1966); Essays in Ancient and Modem Historiography (1977); Problèmes d’historiographie ancienne et moderne (1983); Sui fondamenti della storia antica (1984); Tra storia e storicismo (1985); Storia e storiografia antica (1987); Pagine ebraiche (1987). A similar collection in German does not yet exist. The scholar who did so much to carry on the classic German tradition of scholarship, who, in spite of all he had gone through, aided German colleagues and students in a magnanimous and unrestrained manner, who, as late as the fall of 1986, gave an Italian-German seminar on antiquity in the nineteenth century at the Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento—this scholar is known in German-speaking countries almost solely among specialists. His work deserves to gain there at last the recognition that it has long enjoyed in other countries.

    Momigliano’s personality was many-faceted. He was obsessed with the mission to pass on the ancient as well as the modem tradition and to preserve the highest scholarly standards. Thus he could become authoritarian and scathing when he saw incompetence and mere rhetoric putting on airs. Even the pictures of him as a youthful scholar reveal his extraordinary strength of will. But in addition to all this, he was also at the end a wise patriarch, in every sense of the word, as well as warmhearted and kind. Social reserve he abhorred: even those who had the opportunity to speak with him for several hours were never released from intense scholarly intimacy. Here his knowledge of ancient and of the latest literature was incomparable. He was familiar with the most recent trends in American theology as well as with those in German or Italian philosophy. One could not read a paper or a review by him without encountering the latest, hitherto unknown works.

    Aside from his strictly logical analysis, his precise criticism, and a unique erudition, as well as an extraordinary ability to synthesize, Momigliano, like Droysen, was a historian who put his heart into his subject and knew how to arouse strong feelings. His famous feuds (for example, that with Piero Treves [1911-92]) sometimes attained a virtually Old Testament level of virulence. Yet he also possessed “friends” throughout the world, and also, as he ironically said, “friends of his friends”—friends who, despite passing irritations, admired and honored him and were grateful to have encountered in him one of the most fascinating personalities of our time in the fields of history and ancient studies.

    His intellect and his whole personality enabled Momigliano to keep seminars and large audiences in a state of great intellectual excitement; even listeners who at first had been reserved came completely under his spell. The well-known American sociologist Edward Shils (1910-95) thus described his influence in Chicago: “In a gloomy time in the life of universities, Arnaldo Momigliano stood before us as the embodied ideal of what a university is when it is at its best and what the best professor in that ideal university would be” (Memorial Service for Arnaldo Momigliano, Chicago, 22 October 1987).

    Momigliano’s entire life was pervaded with the will to work and pervaded also by constant restlessness. This restlessness increased in his old age. It was exciting to see how this small, personally quite modest man hurried from country to country, from congress to seminar, from university to institute in order to chair a conference, give a lecture, and meet with friends’ colleagues, and publishers. As many of his letters and many of his final utterances, reveal, he had lived, since the onset of serious heart disease in July 1985, in the awareness that death might soon come upon him. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried on 7 September 1987 in the little Jewish cemetery in Cuneo.

    Translated by Michael Armstrong

  • Sources:

    C. Ampolo, et al. “Arnaldo Momigliano e la sua opera,” Rivista Storica ltaliana 100 (1988) 283-446; W. Enßlin, Gnomon 19 (1943) 61-62; Rebecca Ruth Gould, "Antiquarianism as Genealogy: Arnaldo Momigliano’s Method," History & Theory Vol. 53 No. 2 (2014), pp. 212–33; Donald Kagan, "Arnaldo Momigliano and the Human Sources of History," The New Criterion 10,7 (March, 1992); Oswyn Murray, "Arnaldo Momigliano, 1908–1987," JRS, (1987) xi–xii ; Mark Salber Phillips, "Reconsiderations on History and Antiquarianism: Arnaldo Momigliano and the Historiography of Eighteenth-Century Britain," Journal of the History of Ideas, 57, 2 (April 1996) 297–316; F.W. Walbank, Review of The Development of Greek BiographyHistory and Theory 12 (1973) 230-40; The Presence of the Historian: Essays in Memory of Arnaldo Momigliano. History and Theory, Vol. 30, No. 4, Beiheft 30 (Dec. 1991): Karl Christ, "Arnaldo Momigliano and the History of Historiography,” 5–12; Joanna Weinberg, Joanna. "Where Three Civilizations Meet", 13-26; G.W. Bowersock, "Momigliano's Quest for the Person," 27–36; Ginzburg, Carlo. "Momigliano and de Martino,” 37-48; Oswyn Murray, "Arnaldo Momigliano in England," 49-64.

  • Author: Karl Christ