Saturday, October 10, 2015


Original and Derivative Authorities

Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987), "Ancient History and the Antiquarian," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13.3/4 (1950) 285-315 (at 286):
The whole modern method of historical research is founded upon the distinction between original and derivative authorities. By original authorities we mean either statements by eye-witnesses, or documents, and other material remains, that are contemporary with the events which they attest. By derivative authorities we mean historians or chroniclers who relate and discuss events which they have not witnessed but which they have heard of or inferred directly or indirectly from original authorities. We praise original authorities—or sources—for being reliable, but we praise non-contemporary historians—or derivative authorities—for displaying sound judgment in the interpretation and evaluation of the original sources.
Id. (at 302-303, footnote omitted):
The extraordinary story of Père Hardouin can be understood only in this context. He is notoriously a pathological case. Starting from the study of numismatics, he found contradictions between coins and literary texts and slowly reached the conclusion that all the ancient texts (except Cicero, Virgil's Georgics, Horace's Satires and Epistles and his beloved Pliny the Elder) had been forged by a gang of Italians in the late fourteenth century. He even identified the leader of the gang: Severus Archontius, who absentmindedly left his trace in a passage of the Historia Augusta (Firmus Sat., 2, 1) as a numismatist. Hardouin carried the contemporary bias for non-literary evidence and the contemporary suspicion of literary evidence well beyond the verge of madness. But his contemporaries did not laugh. They answered at length. La Croze wrote a whole volume against Hardouin (1708). Dom Tassin and Dom Toustain justified their big Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique (1750-65) by asserting inter alia that it would make it impossible for a new Hardouin to repeat his exploits. The discovery of the falsification of the whole of St. Augustine and of the Divina Commedia were, as is well known, among the details of Hardouin's discoveries.
On Hardouin see Anthony Grafton, "Jean Hardouin: The Antiquary as Pariah," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 62 (1999) 241-267.

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