Professor Yan Shaoxiang (Capital Normal University, Beijing)
Nominated Fellow, October 2018 - February 2019
History of Ancient Greece
Through this project I would like to write a history of ancient Greece for Chinese academics and students, since many of them are still dominated by the views of westerners such as Eduard Meyer and M. I. Rostovtzeff from the beginning of the 20th century, especially for those scholars who are not specialized in Greek history. By writing a new history of Greece, I would hope to introduce to the Chinese the most recent scholarship in this field.
I have published three monographs, Studies in the Homeric Society, Traditions of Classical Democracy and Republics, and Historiography of Greek and Roman History, successively in 2006 and 2013. My new monograph, Studies in Classical Greek Democracies, is going to be published by the Commercial Press this or next year. I have also published a series of papers related to Greek history in academic journals. They are preliminary studies of my present Greek history.
In writing the new book, History of Ancient Greece, I would like to follow two basic principles: one is that basic evidence should be included. Therefore, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle and the other Greek writers would play a very important role. Inscriptions, coins, papyrus and the other evidence would also have their places separately. The other is that recent scholarship will be preferred. I hope Chinese scholars can come to know M. I. Finley, G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, Douglas MacDowell, Ian Morris, Josiah Ober, Douglas Cairns and Andrew Erskine, and many others.
This new History of Ancient Greece would fall into four parts: Part I, Sources, Historiography and Geographical Background; Part II, Greece in the Bronze Age; Part III Archaic Greece - the origins of polis, Greek democracy, will be dealt with in this part; Part IV, the Classical Age of Greece. Athenian democracy will be the centre, though modern scholars strongly censure the Atheno-centrism of Greek history. But for the Chinese, it will be the most important and I would hope the Chinese can catch the recent trends after reading my book. I also frankly admit that this is the Chinese prejudice towards Greek history. For the history of fourth century BC, I would also critically evaluate the views of the decline of the polis and question the views of the so-called decline of the polis.
In sum, this project will be my most ambitious work since I started my teaching and research in Greek history. It is truly hard work, indeed! I have written some chapters and now am engrossed in Archaic Times, particularly the origins of Athenian democracy. I hope I can finish the remaining chapters which would be the culmination of both Greek history and my work.