Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2.: On the Intellectual Indispensability of Studying Ancient History - Judgments on History and Historians
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2.: On the Intellectual Indispensability of Studying Ancient History - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the Intellectual Indispensability of Studying Ancient History
Among all the fields of learning in the world there prevails, like a fundamental chord that keeps sounding through, the history of the ancient world, i.e., of all those peoples whose lives have flowed into ours.
It would be idle to assume that after four centuries of humanism everything had been learned from the ancient world, all experiences and data had been utilized, and there were no longer anything to be gained there, so that one could content oneself with a knowledge of more modern times or, possibly, make a pitying or reluctant study of the Middle Ages and spend the time saved on more useful things.
We shall never be rid of antiquity as long as we do not become barbarians again. Barbarians and modern American men of culture live without consciousness of history.
In our problematical and wonderful existence we cling involuntarily to the knowledge of man as such, of mankind, empirical, as we meet it in life, and as it is revealed by history. The contemplation of Nature does not suffice us, does not console or instruct us enough.
And here we must not seal ourselves off from anything past, we must leave no gaps; only the whole speaks to us, in all centuries that have left us records.
Are the three great ages of the world perhaps like the three times of day in the riddle of the Sphinx? They are, rather, a continual metempsychosis of acting and suffering man through countless incarnations. A genuine inquiry will want to recognize all these mutations and abandon any partiality for specific ages (it is all right to have a predilection, for that is a matter of taste), and it will do this all the sooner the livelier the feeling for human inadequacy in general is. Once it is understood that there never were, nor ever will be, any happy, golden ages in a fanciful sense, one will remain free from the foolish overvaluation of some past, from senseless despair of the present or fatuous hope for the future, but one will recognize in the contemplation of historical ages one of the noblest undertakings. It is the story of the life and suffering of mankind viewed as a whole.
And yet antiquity has a great specific importance for us; our concept of the state derives from it; it is the birthplace of our religions and of the most permanent part of our civilization. Of its creations in form and writing a great deal is exemplary and unequaled. Our accounting with it in affinity as well as in contrast is infinite.
However, let us regard antiquity as merely the first act of the drama of man, to our eyes a tragedy with immeasurable exertion, guilt, and sorrow. And even though we are descended from peoples who were still slumbering in a state of childhood alongside the great civilized peoples of antiquity, yet we feel ourselves the true descendants of the latter, because their soul has passed over into us; their work, their mission, and their destiny live on in us.