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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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It is a commonplace of modern thought that culture
is always in a state of transformation; that the complex
of arts, institutions, and ideas by which any society lives
has been built up gradually through a long process of
development that is still going on. This idea of culture
entered modern thought as an inheritance, taken over
more or less intact, from certain thinkers of classical
antiquity; but the classical versions of it were, like
culture itself, the products of an evolutionary process,
one whose various stages can be traced in the writings
of early Greek poets and philosophers.

Two attitudes dominate the earliest recorded Greek
thought about the remote past of the human species.
Neither is uniquely Greek, and neither can easily coex-
ist with the notion of culture as evolving gradually
from the simple to the complex. One attitude derives
from retrospective admiration for the unparalleled
achievements of an age of heroes; the other from long-
ing for an earthly paradise of abundance and ease, a
paradise which, like the biblical Garden of Eden, was
imagined as having actually existed in the remote past
of the human race. The former attitude is characteristic
of Homeric epic, which presents its leaders as men of
an earlier time, directly descended from the gods, and
deriving all their arts and institutions from the gods.
Individual feats of skill and strength, as well as the
general level of power, wealth, and military orga-
nization in this heroic age are pictured as far surpassing
anything which the poet or his hearers might have
experienced themselves.

The age of heroes appears in Hesiod as well as


Homer, but alongside the earthly Paradise or Eden-
motif and in the framework of a myth, probably Near
Eastern in origin, in which a succession of races or
epochs in human history is likened to a series of suc-
cessively baser metals: gold, silver, bronze, and iron
(Works and Days, 106-201). In this scheme of history
the golden race becomes the inhabitants of the Greek
Eden, the race of heroes is inserted somewhat oddly
after the races of silver and bronze, and Hesiod's own
contemporaries are the race of iron. Hesiod is far more
interested in contrasting the iron present with the
golden and heroic pasts than he is in developing in
detail the idea of a step-by-step deterioration. The
latter idea may, in fact, have been adopted by him
chiefly as a means of working these two different no-
tions of the past into a single historical narrative. When
the Eden-motif appears alone in early Greek thought
it is regularly in the context of another myth altogether,
that which connects the harsh lot of contemporary man
with the stern rule of Zeus and the ease of an earlier
time with the mild rule of Zeus's father, Cronus. It
was only when the myth of the Ages of Man was
revived in Hellenistic and later times that it came to
be used as a setting for the Eden-motif alone—a change
which led, almost without exception, to the elimination
of the age of heroes from the scheme altogether. But
Hesiod's later imitators were true to their model in
that they continued to emphasize the first and last
phases of the cycle at the expense of the intervening
two. The borrowed notion of a degenerating succession
of epochs was never really assimilated either by Hesiod
or his successors: the oriental cycle became and re-
mained a Greek antithesis.

Both Homer and Hesiod are products of a transi-
tional period between the relatively static era that
followed the breakup of Mycenaean civilization in the
twelfth century B.C., and the Greek renaissance of the
seventh and sixth centuries. Homer looks back over
the static centuries to the highly complex Mycenaean
world and locates the deeds of his heroes there; Hesiod
dislikes the signs of incipient change he sees around
him and, by way of reaction, idealizes the fixed agri-
cultural existence of a less remote past into the life
of the Golden race. Change is still seen only as a
disruptive process, and so this past is not a simpler
or more primitive time but essentially Hesiod's own
society minus the aspects of it he dislikes: sea-borne
commerce, covetousness and litigation, and the hard
labor in the fields which the gods have imposed on
man as a punishment for his wickedness.

It was probably the pressure of external events
which, more than anything else, led to the ultimate
abandonment of such views of the past. Hesiod lived
at the beginning of two centuries of continuous and
radical change (ca. 700 B.C.). The period witnessed the
opening of all the Mediterranean to Greek trade and
colonization, the diffusion of the art of writing, the
invention of coinage, the first written constitutions,
extensive reorganization of political and social struc-
tures over much of Greece, and important develop-
ments in technology, mathematics, and the fine arts.
It was natural for Greeks of this time to assume that
the step-by-step transformation of all aspects of human
life which could be observed in recent history had gone
on throughout all of history and that the earliest human
existence must have been, as a consequence, far simpler
and poorer than any within memory.

The new view is already found in the writings of
the sixth-century philosopher Xenophanes (frag. 18),
but there is no evidence to suggest that it crystallized
into a comprehensive reconstruction of the life of early
man before the mid-fifth century. The first revisions
of earlier notions seem to have been piecemeal in
character: gods who had once been the divine patrons
or supreme practitioners of a given art came to be
regarded as the ones responsible for first acquainting
mankind with its use, or the earliest men associated
in mythological tradition with a given technology as
its inventors. So Demeter becomes the bringer of agri-
culture, Prometheus the discoverer of fire, Daedalus
the inventor of sculpture, and the Argonauts the
world's first sailors. When a group of such “firsts” was
assembled the result would not be an analysis of cul-
tural development but a catalogue of inventions, and
this is the form taken by the earliest connected piece
of Greek cultural history that has survived: the Titan
Prometheus' description of his services to mankind in
Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound (ca. 460 B.C.). The gap
which separates this account from the more genuinely
scientific speculations of later thinkers is evident not
only in its form, but also in the character of Prometheus
himself. On one level, he is a personification of the
intelligence of man the deviser (promētheia in Greek
means “forethought”); but on another level he is an
early fifth-century scientist or natural philosopher. The
remote past is still seen very much in the image of
the recent past, so that the inventions by which
Prometheus is supposed to have raised man from his
primitive savagery are largely in those fields—such as
written communication, astronomy, medicine—where
advances in the preceding century had been especially

The first comprehensive attempt to envisage the
character of human life in its pre-technological stages
belongs to the generation following Aeschylus' if, as
is now generally assumed, the doctrines ascribed to the
Sophist Protagoras (fl. ca. 440 B.C.) in Plato's Protagoras
are in fact his. Protagoras sees the development of


technology in the context of the struggle which men,
like all other animals, must wage for survival. Fire,
housing, clothing, and agriculture are techniques de-
vised to avoid death by starvation or exposure to the
elements; the various social virtues (reverence, justice,
piety) are a similar set of techniques (called by Protag-
oras “the civic technology”) devised to secure the
peaceful communal existence that is necessary if men
are to cooperate effectively with one another in fight-
ing for survival against other animals.

The civic technology is one in whose development
all men participate, and Protagoras' whole theory can
be regarded as a secularization and democratization
as well as an extension of the approach which gave
rise to the catalogues of inventors. The latter tended
to concentrate on the outstanding achievements of
individual inventors, often divine or semi-divine in
character, and to neglect the more primitive and basic
skills which could be felt as the property of the whole
race. The transformation may be the work of Protag-
oras himself, who was the first man to take higher
education out of the control of the family or profes-
sional guild and make it the subject of public lectures;
but there is reason to believe that the evolutionary
cosmology and biology of the Pre-Socratics were influ-
ential as well. Protagoras introduces his account of
early man by a zoogony and regards the capacity for
technology as a human trait which stands in lieu of
the various natural advantages (claws, wings, bodily
strength) which fit animals for survival. Man's ability
to exploit his environment by various arts and crafts
is similarly described as compensating for physical
weakness in a fragment of a Pre-Socratic who was
Protagoras' contemporary, namely, Anaxagoras (frag.
21b); and the latter's pupil Archelaus is credited with
an account of the way in which “human beings were
separated out from the other animals and then devel-
oped leaders and lawful usages and techniques...”
(frag. A4). He must have covered much the same
ground as Protagoras does in Plato's dialogue.

Protagoras, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus are probably
symptomatic of the thoroughgoing character of the
revision of earlier ideas which was going on in the
middle of the fifth century, and it is a reasonable
inference that by the end of the century few if any
educated Greeks would have questioned the view that
man's life had been radically transformed and enriched
by his own technology. Later pictures of the Golden
Age and reign of Cronus, whether Greek or Roman,
are either consciously fanciful and metaphorical, or are
modifications of the Hesiodic myth in that they de-
scribe the earliest men as living with no technology
at all, or only its rudiments, and seek to show that they
were better off as a consequence.

Once the fact of technological and material progress
was generally accepted, the emphasis in discussions of
cultural development tended to shift away from the
simple assertion of the importance of technology and
a catalogue of its achievements—even though the cat-
alogue of inventors continued to be an established
minor genre down to the end of antiquity and into
the early Middle Ages. The capacity for technology
is no longer, as it had been for Protagoras and his
predecessors, simply a characteristic excellence of man.
It is rather something whose existence calls for expla-
nation within the context of a more general theory,
often psychological in character, of the nature of man
and the sources of man's actions. Here it is possible
to distinguish two main lines of thought—a naturalistic
and a teleological one.

The former antedates the latter, which arose par-
tially in response to it. It recalls Protagoras in connect-
ing the beginnings of technology and society with the
struggle for survival, and in its view of social and
ethical usages as a kind of “civic technology” acquired
in the same way as the other arts and crafts. But the
Protagorean notion of technology as a mechanism of
survival that comes into being through a vaguely con-
ceived process of “challenge and response” is replaced
by something far more precise.

In some authors this more precise formulation in-
volves a fairly simple historical determinism. Prodicus,
a Sophist of the generation following that of Protag-
oras, held that society, religion, and most civilized
usages followed inevitably as soon as man's natural
quest for food led him to take up farming; and
Thucydides in the opening chapters of his history of
the Peloponnesian War seems to derive political and
economic institutions exclusively from man's inevitable
quest for security and power. Theories of geographical
or climatic determinism also found their adherents; and
the whole method was soon taken over by rhetoricians
as a standard topos, by which any given art or activity
could be praised as the principal cause of man's rise
from savagery to civilization. Love between the sexes,
oratory, poetry, sailing, even cooking are all exalted
in this fashion.

Other thinkers within the naturalistic tradition seem
to have posited a more complex process, one in which
there is an interaction between a number of instincts
or drives common to man and other animals—for food,
shelter, physical comfort, sexual satisfaction, security
from attack, proximity to members of one's own
kind—and, on the other hand, certain physical and
mental endowments—hands, upright stature, the ca-
pacity for articulate speech, the ability to calculate
the future consequences of a decision—which are pe-
culiar to man or possessed by him to a peculiar degree.


This ability to calculate functions passively rather than
actively at the outset of human development, allows
men to seize on the advantages of a situation that has
already been presented to them (e.g., a chance fire,
first terrifying, then fascinating and comforting mo-
mentarily with its warmth, eventually preserved as a
continuing source of comfort and put to other uses)
rather than to plan methodically for the future. With
the passage of time men come to look for such situa-
tions and to seize upon their implications even when
they are not immediately obvious, and so to expand
constantly on the suggestions and models provided by
nature and accident. Such advances always begin with
one individual, but are quickly imitated by others, so
that the rate of progress is much faster than if the
talents of only one person were involved. Only when
such activity, carried on over a long period of time,
has produced a surplus of the necessities of life does
pleasure as well as need become the goal toward which
men work; hence the late origin of the fine arts as
opposed to the useful arts.

Language and social mores arise in a similar manner:
the first step in the transformation of the inarticulate
cries men share with other animals occurs when a
chance incident creates an association between a sound
and a certain meaning and the utility of the resulting
signal makes it a model for the creation of other mean-
ingful utterances. (So, for example, a cry of terror in
a moment of danger may save the utterer by attracting
the attention of others who come to his aid, and then
may be retained as a rallying cry).

A characteristically human society begins to evolve
out of an animal-like herd when the vague patterns
of cooperation and more or less amicable coexistence
which characterize herd-existence are broken by acts
of unprovoked aggression. Such departures from the
expected pass unnoticed in other animal herds, but the
human animal looks to the future and, foreseeing situa-
tions when he may be in the place of the injured party,
registers indignation and disapproval in such a way as
to inhibit future occurrences of the particular asocial
or “unjust” act involved. Similar chance occurrences
of desirable modes of behavior (e.g., exceptional brav-
ery in combating the common enemies of the herd)
are the occasion of approbation and rewards, and are
thus encouraged. The result is a gradual and progres-
sive standardization of behavior along the lines most
conducive to the welfare of the whole herd, and the
behavior patterns acquired in this way become second
nature for each successive generation. The purely social
system of rewards and punishments that is involved
in this process is reinforced by government when the
herd's leader (regularly, as in animal herds, its strongest
member) for one reason or another decides to employ
his own strength on the side of what the herd considers
just; the advantages of having such a leader are per-
ceived, and rule is henceforth based on consent rather
than submission to superior force.

Such are some of the main ideas that enter into the
composite picture of cultural development which can
be pieced together from scattered accounts in a num-
ber of Greek and Latin texts, most of them dating from
the late Hellenistic or early imperial period (the first
book of Diodorus Siculus' universal history, the fifth
book of Lucretius' exposition of Epicurean philosophy,
the account of the origin and transformation of politi-
cal constitutions found in the sixth book of Polybius,
the description of the beginnings of architecture in the
second book of Vitruvius). The passages in question
are linked by general agreement as to the factors at
work in the growth of culture (the continuing presence
of certain basic human needs plus a continuously in-
creasing ability on the part of man to calculate consist-
ently for his future satisfaction) and, more strikingly,
by the shared notion of cultural development as pro-
ceeding via a series of chance situations which provide
opportunities or suggestions that man exploits for his
own benefit. Whether all aspects of the general picture
were ever present in a single account is uncertain, but
the basic ideas or principles involved, and many of
their specific applications, were probably first found
in the writings of the late fifth-century atomist
Democritus. Indeed, the whole theory, since it decom-
poses the seeming continuity of human life and culture
into a series of discrete events each involving an abrupt
transformation of a small portion of the life of a society,
can be regarded as a kind of sociological atomism. It
thus forms a natural counterpart to the atomistic anal-
ysis of change in the physical world as resulting from
a series of sudden rearrangements of two or more of
the tiny particles of which matter is composed.

This version of the process of cultural development,
like the physical systems of Democritus and other
Pre-Socratics, did not posit the existence of a final or
formal cause, and as such was unlikely to appeal to
thinkers trained in the Platonic and Aristotelian tradi-
tions. It is accordingly common to find in Aristotelian
and post-Aristotelian philosophy an altogether different
view of cultural development—one which sees it as
a gradual unfolding of the capacities inherent in man's
nature, a process which proceeds in orderly fashion
toward its telos, which is the realization of human
nature in all its fullness and perfection. The various
human endowments to which the naturalistic theory
called attention cease to be efficient causes in this
scheme and become symptomatic of the operation of
a final or formal cause. Man, as Aristotle says (correct-
ing Anaxagoras), is not the most intelligent of animals


because he has hands but has hands because he is the
most intelligent (De partibus animalium 687a 7-10).
Moreover, since all the virtues of civilized man must
have been present in embryonic form in his primitive
ancestors, there is a strong—though not universal—
tendency to idealize the state of nature as incomplete
but also uncorrupted.

Human development for the teleologists in analogous
to the growth of an organism, or to the gradual perfec-
tion of an art, science, or other discipline through a
series of discoveries which bring men progressively
closer to the practice of the discipline in its ideal form.
Perhaps as a consequence, teleological accounts of the
growth of culture often seem to have included not
simply a speculative reconstruction of prehistory but
also historical research aimed at fixing the place, time,
and author of each of the discoveries which went into
the creation of a given art or science, somewhat in
the manner of the earlier catalogues of inventors. The
account of the growth of tragedy found in Aristotle's
Poetics is the best-known surviving example of the

Technology, viewed as an organized system of skills,
thus continued to receive a share of attention from the
teleologists, but it is regularly relegated to an earlier
stage in the process of cultural development, as being
a product of that lower portion of man's capacities
which is directed toward the satisfaction of material
needs. Disinterested speculation on the constitution of
the universe and the nature of Being constitute the
final and culminating stages of man's cultural progress,
with the fine arts occupying occasionally an interme-
diate stage.

This view of cultural development is implicit in a
passage of the Epinomis, ascribed to Plato's pupil
Philip of Opus, and seems to have appeared in Aris-
totle's early work (now lost) called De philosophia.
It is best known, however, in the form given it by the
Stoic Posidonius (ca. 135-51 B.C.). The latter held that
man's earliest existence was under the guide of “phi-
losophers,” who showed man the various necessities of
life, then led him to discover all the arts, and finally
taught him the methods of philosophy proper—the
implication being that technology is an early and im-
perfect version of a discipline which finds its fullest
embodiment in pure theory.

The teleological view is not maintained with com-
plete consistency by all of its proponents. Posidonius
himself, in describing the growth of technology, posited
a process of discovery which closely resembles that
envisaged by Democritus and was probably influenced
by Democritean doctrines; Aristotle's pupil Dicaear-
chus, though he argued for a progression from food-
gathering to herding to agriculture in the life of early
man (evidently guided by the feeling that these are
progressively more complex and advanced forms of
activity and hence must follow in this order) seems
not to have felt that the progression was in the direc-
tion of a better life for man; and another pupil of
Aristotle, Theophrastus, in tracing the development of
religious usages, assigned considerable importance to
historical accident. But these are minor deviations
which do not affect the basic character of the doctrines

Insofar as such doctrines are not specifically teleo-
logical but simply a form of historical determinism,
and insofar as they tend to minimize the importance
of communities and social conditioning in the creation
of man's civilized traits, they have parallels in Hellen-
istic thought outside the teleological schools. For most
of the thought of this period, whether teleological or
nonteleological, tended to eliminate the contingent in
favor of the necessary in its theories of causation, and
in the study of man to regard human nature as a
universal, essentially the same regardless of the partic-
ular social context in which it might find itself. The
points at which the Epicurean account of cultural
origins found in the fifth book of Lucretius seems to
depart from its Democritean model are indicative of
both these characteristically Hellenistic tendencies. On
more than one occasion Lucretius' account gives bio-
logical and environmental determinism a greater causal
role as against the play of accident and human calcula-
tion, working in a particular social context, stressed
by Democritus. Primitive language and primitive ethi-
cal notions are thus regarded as physiologically and
geographically determined: men are impelled by their
physical and psychic makeup and the climatic features
of a given region to attach certain designations to
certain objects, and, when brought together with other
men for mutual protection, to recognize as immedi-
ately self-evident the advantages of certain modes of
behavior, which are thus the basis of the moral codes
operative in all societies.

Elements of the teleological view of the develop-
ment of civilization appear as early as the late fifth
century. Euripides and Xenophon, for example, refer
to man's capacity for speech and his other physical
advantages as the gifts of a benign providence to facil-
itate the development and exercise of his higher facul-
ties. But the theory seems to have become fully formu-
lated only in the Academy of Plato's later years (cf.
the works of Philip of Opus and the young Aristotle
mentioned above). Even in Plato's own works the idea
of technology as preparation for philosophy never
appears. Plato's concern in the three dialogues (Re-
public, Politicus, Laws
) in which he deals most exten-
sively with the question of cultural development is


rather to separate the intellectual and technological
elements in civilization and to emphasize the fact that
it is only the former, not the latter, which can ensure
man's happiness. He does this by contrasting the cul-
ture of his contemporaries with culture at an entirely
different stage of technological and material develop-
ment in such a way as to show that not technological
superiority but the possession of philosophical wisdom
is the criterion to be used in determining which cul-
ture is better for man.

In the Republic the contrasting culture is that of
a “simple” state in which a rudimentary division of
labor and exchange of services satisfies man's essential
needs; in the Laws it is a primitive pastoral society
(peopled by the survivors of one of the cataclysms
which occur periodically through human history),
which has retained from the period prior to the cata-
clysm certain rudimentary arts (weaving and pottery)
and social institutions (the patriarchal family) but lost
all the rest. Plato clearly suggests that the rudimentary
technologies of this pastoral society and of the simple
state in the Republic are more conducive to virtue and
happiness than the more advanced technology of his
own day. The only thing that makes life unsatisfactory
in both these primitive states is the absence of philoso-
phy. Philosophical wisdom is not among the virtues
which Plato ascribes to the primitive shepherds in the
Laws (679e), and the philosopher class only arises in
the “luxurious” state which succeeds the simple one
in the scheme of development posited in the Republic.
In the Politicus Plato pictures the Hesiodic reign of
Cronus as existing in a cycle of human existence prior
to the present one. Cronus' subjects enjoy an easier
and more abundant supply of material wants than
technology in the present cycle can supply, but cannot
be considered to have been truly happy if they lacked
philosophy (272b-c).

The three passages in which Plato treats cultural
development at some length do not present a coherent
theory of it, but they were of fundamental importance
for the development of later ideas. The teleological
notion of the relation between technology and philos-
ophy was probably an outgrowth of Plato's strict sepa-
ration of the two, a kind of compromise designed to
preserve the supremacy of the latter without totally
rejecting the importance of the former. In the Republic
and the Laws Plato envisaged the minimum of techno-
logical development that is requisite for human happi-
ness, and attributed this level of technological devel-
opment to the inhabitants of an early society. In so
doing he created an intellectually acceptable moderni-
zation of the Hesiodic Eden myth that was to be-
come the ultimate model for the state of nature as
praised by primitivists throughout later antiquity. Fi
nally, the system of world-cycles separated by cata-
clysms which appears in the Politicus and Laws was
to provide the most common setting for the teleological
theory of cultural development, providing as it did a
series of appropriately finite chronological settings for
the finite evolutionary processes posited by this theory.

The teleological conception of cultural history does
not allow for further technological, social, or political
development of any significance once the stage of
philosophical inquiry has been reached. One would not
expect, therefore, to find in writers who belong to or
anticipate this tradition any counterpart to the modern
idea of potentially unlimited progress, except insofar
as it applies to the realm of philosophy. The idea is
not in fact found in such writers when they are con-
cerned with cultural development in general—though
they may on occasion allow for the possibility in con-
nection with a specific technology (see, most strikingly,
Politicus 298b-99c). When the prospect of a radical
transformation of man's way of life must be contem-
plated, writers working within this tradition can only
describe it as a return to the Golden Age or a realiza-
tion of it—as, for example, the Roman poets described
the renovation of the Roman body politic attempted
by Augustus.

The Democritean theory and its antecedents are, by
contrast, not committed on principle to the rejection
of unlimited future progress in any realm of human
activity. The climate of the time in which such theories
were formulated—middle and late fifth century—
would have been favorable to such an idea, for the
period saw the limitless aspirations of Periclean Athens
and the first practical plans for reorganizing society
along new lines, with provisions to ensure that the new
societies should be themselves innovatory rather than
static (see the suggestion of Pericles' friend, the city-
planner Hippodamus of Miletus, reported in Aristotle,
Politics 1268a 6-8). Democritus in several fragments
seems to be proposing far-reaching reforms in the
political and social structure of the city, and Plato may
be drawing on earlier theories of cultural history when,
in the Laws (683a), he suggests that the city itself is
not the ultimate stage in political evolution but may
be replaced by a larger unit—league, alliance, or con-
federacy. When the Democritean view of cultural
development is transformed, as it is in several early
Hellenistic texts, into monarchistic propaganda, the
transformation is achieved by attributing man's early
progress to beneficient kings and by suggesting that
contemporary monarchs, like their primitive fore-
runners, can be expected to bring new levels of pros-
perity and technological achievement to their realms
and to extend the blessings of civilization to ever larger
portions of the habitable world. Even Democritus'


conception of cultural development as a response to
certain constant elements in human nature does not
preclude the idea of infinite progression, since Democ-
ritus recognizes the existence of such a thing as second
nature. Nature is not simply inborn but may be im-
planted through education and training (frag. 33).

Yet we cannot be sure how far such faith in progress
went. Protagoras' contemporary, Sophocles, wrote the
most enthusiastic proclamation of man's ability to con-
trol and transform the world that survives from antiq-
uity (Antigone 332-75), yet he closed his encomium
with a cautionary reference to the fact that such power
can be a mixed blessing. And the Democritean frag-
ments just mentioned must be compared with others,
which stress the necessity of always limiting one's needs
and being content with little. Greek distrust of power
and affluence was perhaps too strong ever to allow the
ancient apostles of progress to be as confident as some
of their modern counterparts, and it is reasonable to
assume that their voice became less and less confident
as time went on. Political progress was so intimately
bound up with technological progress in the minds of
those who accepted the possibility of both processes
continuing indefinitely, that the whole notion would
have been difficult to maintain after the end of the
fourth century B.C. By then Greece's control over her
destiny had passed out of her own hands, and the most
that the educated class could hope for politically was
to maintain the social status quo against the threat of
internal revolution. Teleological doctrines would have
had an especial appeal for this age, for by their view
of the position of philosophy in human history they
taught that man was simply fulfilling his destiny in
ultimately abandoning action for thought.

The coming of Roman domination in the second
century B.C. only intensified this trend in Greek
thought; and Roman historical thought, insofar as it
did not simply reflect Greek ideas, was dominated by
retrospective admiration for its own race of heroes:
the plain-living, self-denying warriors and statesmen
of the early Republic. It is hardly surprising, therefore,
that the teleological theory of cultural development
was, either in combination or in alternation with the
primitivists' idealization of a simple and unproblematic
state of nature, canonical throughout later antiquity.


The principal texts are collected and translated in A. O.
Lovejoy and G. Boas, Primitivism and Related Ideas in
(Baltimore, 1935). The best general survey of the
whole subject is still W. von Uxkull-Gyllenband, Griechische
(Berlin, 1924). For more special-
ized discussions, see B. Gatz, Weltalter, goldene Zeit und
sinnverwandte Vorstellungen
(Hildesheim, 1967); A. Klein
günther, “ΠΡΩΤΟΣ ΕΓΡΕΤΗΣ,” Philologus Suppl. 26.1
(1933) and K. Thraede, “Erfinder,” Reallexikon für Antike
und Christentum,
5 (1962), 1191-1278 (inventor catalogues);
T. Cole, Democritus and the Sources of Greek Anthropology,
in American Philological Association Monographs XXV
(1967); W. Theiler, Geschichte der teleologischen Natur-
betrachtung bis auf Aristoteles
(Zürich, 1925); and E. A.
Havelock, The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics (New Haven,
1957), 25-124 (theories of cultural development in the larger
context of early Greek anthropological and political
thought). As is inevitable, since so many of the principal
authors survive only in fragments, all these studies make
extensive use of hypothetical reconstructions; and any two
scholars' reconstructions will show important areas of dis-
agreement. For views differing sharply from those here
presented of the importance of Democritus in the shaping
of the tradition and of the place of the idea of progress
in ancient thought see W. Spoerri, Späthellenistische
Berichte über Welt, Kultur und Götter
(Basel, 1959) and L.
Edelstein, The Idea of Progress in Classical Antiquity (Balti-
more, 1967), reviewed critically by E. R. Dodds, Journal
of the History of Ideas,
29 (1968), 453-57. For other relevant
passages from ancient authors see the very full survey in
K. Thraede, “Fortschritt,” Reallexikon für Antike und
8 (1969), 141-61.


[See also Atomism; Culture and Civilization; Historiogra-
phy, Ancient Greek; Platonism; Pre-Platonic Conceptions;
Progress in Antiquity; Technology; Work.]