The Public Economy Of The Athenians -- By: Albert Harkness

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 015:57 (Jan 1858)
Article: The Public Economy Of The Athenians
Author: Albert Harkness


The Public Economy Of The Athenians1

Prof. Albert Harkness

Among the countless publications of our day, few possess enough of real and permanent value to give promise of ever becoming standard works. That is a rare book which reveals any great truth, or even presents a thorough and impartial discussion of any important subject. Accordingly, the appearance of a truly great work, in any leading department of letters or science, is a subject for general congratulation. Scholars throughout the world hail it alike as an invaluable contribution to the treasury of knowledge, and as a vast accession to their facilities for future research.

Boeckh’s Staatshaushaltung der Athener is a noble specimen of this class of works. Conceived and executed in the very best style of German scholarship, it marks an era in the study of classical antiquity. Its accomplished author brings to his arduous task a mind gifted with the choicest natural endowments, trained to the highest culture, and stored with the richest treasures of learning. He has, moreover, no favorite theory to establish; he is not the paid advocate, striving with special pleadings to save a desperate cause; but the impartial judge, calmly weighing the claims of truth and justice. Steadily he pursues his investigations. Does he discover heroic patriotism or noble magnanimity, the just need of praise springs spontaneously from his generous heart; does he lay bare the dark immorality of a corrupt and depraved populace? his moral nature rising before us in all its truthfulness pronounces the stern sentence of unqualified condemnation.

This work, as every scholar knows, is the most thorough and complete investigation of the public economy of the ancient Athenians ever attempted. Free from vague generalities, it gives us not empty declamation, but substantial fact; not mere assertion, but reliable proof. It has long been the standard authority on all subjects discussed in its pages; and yet we must not expect to find its pictures of Athenian life complete and full; in many instances indeed, we have only the rude outline, and neither the classic page nor the ancient inscription furnishes us a single hint, by which we may complete the picture. The artist has wisely left his work at the very point where the light of history failed him; he knew but too well that, though the imagination might conceive a beautiful painting, it could not produce a truthful portrait.

The work, though published in 1817, underwent no important revision until 1851, when the present enlarged and improved edition made its appearance. A full generation had already passed away since the work was first offered to...

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