Page:Historical Essays and Studies.djvu/362

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350
ESSAYS ON MODERN HISTORY

The fruit of the Roman History ripened for Greece. The men who made it known in this country were Thirlwall and Grote; it sent Otfried Müller to historical studies; and Böckh dedicated to Niebuhr a work which has stood the test of time better than his own. Under the powerful sway which Böckh exercised in Prussia for fifty years, Hellenic studies obtained the lead. A deeper scholar than Niebuhr, an historian, which the Saxon philologists disdained to be, he abandoned Rome to jurists and politicians, and primitive times to romantic theorists. His own taste was for the hardest possible facts and the clearest proofs. Like Niebuhr, he believed that antiquity is covered over with error, which will shrivel like a parched scroll, and that hidden truth will be brought to light. But instead of the incommunicable genius of conjecture he set to work with a new organon, and substituted improved evidence for dazzling guesswork.

Inscriptions had been always a source of dire confusion, for it paid local antiquaries to forge them, and two hundred consuls were invented by a single impostor. Niebuhr dismissed this branch of inquiry wholesale, saying that nobody could be expected to master it. Böckh showed that it could be made an instrument of discovery as efficacious as the boldest ingenuity, and it became, in his firm and patient hands, the corner-stone of the building. Besides showing the way of reaching truth even beyond Thucydides, he was an illustrious example of the historian who puts himself out of sight and displays what is certain, suppressing rigidly his personal sentiments. The tone of elegiac and cathartic poetry is one thing: the epic tone is another. After hearing his course on ancient philosophy, I asked him why his lectures were more interesting than his books. Böckh answered benignly, "Because I give my finished researches to the public, and keep my own views (die ideale Anschauung) for the students."

The Public Economy of the Athenians is almost the only history produced before the critical epoch which still stands, unshaken and erect. The critical epoch