The Christian reconstruction of history held men’s minds throughout the Middle Ages, imposed, as it was, by the highest ecclesiastical authority.  But, though it marked no advancement of knowledge, though the synthesis was simply grotesque, it served to emphasize and intensify the idea of the unity of mankind which had already been preached by the Stoics.  With the Stoics, this idea had such a vague application that it came to little more than an abstract theory.  With the Christians, it acquired a real and intense meaning, inasmuch as they believed all the inhabitants of the earth to have a common and vital interest, though they might not know it, in the Christian dispensation.  Insofar as it accustomed men to realize the conception of a solidarity among all the races of humanity, the Christian interpretation assisted in the transition from the ancient to the modern conception of universal history.  For this office, a price was paid.  History submitted to authority, and free enquiry was suspended for centuries.

From: The Ancient Greek Historians: The Lane Lectures at Harvard University for 1908 by J. B. Bury; reprint; The Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading series (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), p. 142.  Originally published in 1909.

J. B. Bury (1861-1927) was an Irish Greek and Latin scholar, historian of ancient Greece and Rome, and a prolific author.  He became a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1885.


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