Antiquarian

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An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado of antiquities or things of the past. Also, and most often in modern usage, an antiquarian is a person who deals with or collects rare and ancient "antiquarian books". More narrowly, the term is often used for those who studied history with special attention to "antiques", meaning ancient objects of art or science as physical traces of the past. Antiquarianism is usually considered to have emerged in the Middle Ages (see History of archaeology),[1] though antiquarian writings are also an important form of literature in ancient Rome. By the 19th century, antiquarianism had become transformed and divided into academic disciplines including archaeology, philology, literature studies and art history.

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Antiquarianism in ancient Rome

The strong sense of traditionalism in ancient Rome motivated an interest in studying and recording the "monuments" (Latin monumenta[2]) of the past. Books on antiquarian topics covered such subjects as the origin of customs, religious rituals, and political institutions; genealogy; topography and landmarks; and etymology. Annals and histories might also include sections pertaining to these subjects, but annals are chronological in structure, and Roman histories, such as those of Livy and Tacitus, are both chronological and offer an overarching narrative and interpretation of events. By contrast, antiquarian works as a literary form are organized by topic, and any narrative is short and illustrative, in the form of anecdotes.

Major antiquarian Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius. The Roman emperor Claudius published antiquarian works, none of which is extant. Some of Cicero's treatises, particularly his work on divination, show strong antiquarian interests, but their primary purpose is the exploration of philosophical questions within well-delineated schools of thought. The aim of antiquarian works is to collect a great number of possible explanations, with less emphasis on arriving at a truth than in compiling the evidence. The antiquarians are often used as sources by the ancient historians, who include passages of antiquarian interest, and many antiquarian writers are known only through these citations.[3]

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