M. I. Finley (1912-1986), the son of Nathan Finkelstein and Anna Katzellenbogen, was born in New York City. He graduated from Syracuse University at the age of fifteen and received an MA in public law from Columbia, before turning to the study of ancient history. During the Thirties Finley taught at Columbia and City College and developed an interest in the sociology of the ancient world that was shaped in part by his association with members of the Frankfurt School who were working in exile in America. In 1952, when he was teaching at Rutgers, Finley was summoned before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and asked whether he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. He refused to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment; by the end of the year he had been fired from the university by a unanimous vote of its trustees. Unable to find work in the US, Finley moved to England, where he taught for many years at Cambridge, helping to redirect the focus of classical education from a narrow emphasis on philology to a wider concern with culture, economics, and society. He became a British subject in 1962 and was knighted in 1979. Among Finley’s best-known works are The Ancient Economy, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, and The World of Odysseus.


Ancient Technocrats

The Muses at Work

edited by Carl Roebuck

Technology in the Ancient World

by Henry Hodges
The Muses began their long career as vague minor spirits whom old Greek poets such as Hesiod invoked for inspiration. But when mythology fell into the hands of the learned, the Muses became fixed in number (nine) and they acquired individuality, with personal names and specialized spheres of activity. The …

A Profitable Empire

Roman Imperialism in the Late Republic

by E. Badian

The Roman Empire and Its Neighbours

by Fergus Millar
“No administration in history has ever devoted itself so whole-heartedly to fleecing its subjects for the private benefit of its ruling class as Rome of the last age of the Republic.” That sentence, from the final chapter of Professor Ernst Badian’s exciting little book on Roman imperialism (originally a set …

Back to Atlantis

Atlantis The Truth Behind the Legend

by A.G. Galanopoulos and Edward Bacon

Lost Atlantis New Light on an Old Legend

by J.V. Luce
In The New York Review of Books for May 22, 1969, I took the opportunity, in reviewing Voyage to Atlantis by James W. Mavor Jr., to discuss at length (and dismiss) current efforts to historicize Plato’s myth of Atlantis. That old game has been revived with the recent discovery that …

Atlantis or Bust

Voyage to Atlantis

by James W. Mavor Jr.
Plato interrupted the flow of several of his dialogues to tell a myth, the purpose of which was to convey in an imaginative or symbolic way a truth not (or less) accessible to his usual dialectical method of demonstration. They were eschatological or more general religious truths, with one striking …

Et tu, Teddy White

Caesar at the Rubicon

by Theodore H. White

The Authoress of the Odyssey

by Samuel Butler
The fundamental difference between the good professional historian and even the best amateur historian is that the latter, sooner or later, decides that there is nothing new under the sun. Theodore White tells us in his prologue that Caesar was “oddly modern and romantic,” that he was “perhaps more a …

Up from Democritus

Democritus and the Sources of Greek Anthropology Association)

by Thomas Cole

The Idea of Progress in Classical Antiquity

by Ludwig Edelstein
The historian, we are frequently reminded, has to have sympathy with his subject. There is validity in the injunction: it would be difficult for anyone to write a reasonable history of the Assyrians if he shared the hatred expressed in the Old Testament. But there is also danger. Sympathy easily …