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What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking Hardcover – February 28, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“No mere catalogue of accomplishments, [Lehoux’s] multifaceted book brilliantly rethinks both the Roman and our own approaches to the cosmos. . . . Between the coherent past world that the Romans made and the presumed timelessness of our scientific world, Lehoux leaves us not with an unbridgeable chasm but with his pragmatic realism, born at the confluence of ancient science, historical epistemology and the philosophy of science. First rate.”
(Michael H. Shank Times Higher Education)

“This is a thought-provoking book, and I think in its broad strokes it is successful; Lehoux demonstrates to my satisfaction both that all science is socially constructed to a degree and that we should take every society’s science seriously, because they certainly did. . . . It certainly gave me a new and profound respect for the world of Roman science, and for those who practiced it.”
(Caroline Bishop, Washington University in St. Louis Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

“[A]n unprecedented and fascinating description of the mental experience of educated inhabitants of the Roman Empire looking at the natural world.”
(Edith Hall History Today)

“Elegant. . . . Lehoux’s persuasive narrative . . . is not only a work of classical scholarship: it is also a significant contribution to the philosophy of science.”
(David Sedley Times Literary Supplement)

“In this important, brilliant, and truly admirable book, Lehoux has laid the groundwork for a deeper and clearer understanding of Roman science, most of all that it was rich and significant. May he continue to help us enter still further into what the Romans really knew and ponder what that should mean, in turn, for us.”
(Peter Pesic Science)

“This epistemologically sophisticated interrogation of Roman ‘scientific’ activities represents an exciting opportunity for a new beginning in the dialogue between philosophy of science and the history of scientific practices in the ancient world.”
(Courtney Roby, Cornell University Expositions)

“[A]n innovative and commendable exercise at the intersection of ancient history and the philosophy of science.”
(Jacqueline Feke, University of Chicago Expositions)

“[C]omprehensive and thoughtful. . . . With a sound understanding of Roman natural philosophy and a touch of humor, Lehoux’s work investigates ideas fundamental to the history and philosophy of science.”
(Elizabeth A. Hamm, Saint Mary's College of California Expositions)

“This stimulating book richly repays study.”
(T. E. Rihill, Swansea University British Journal for the History of Science)

(H. Doss, Wilbur Wright College Choice)

“This book is a jewel.”
(Karin Verelst Isis)

“This is a fascinating analysis of how elite Romans thought about their place in nature. It will be a permanent contribution to our attempts to understand how literate civilizations at various times and places have thought about human relationships to other creatures, to things, and to the gods.”
(Ian Hacking, Collège de France)

What Did the Romans Know? is a brilliant achievement. Equally historical and philosophical, Lehoux’s book is simultaneously sophisticated and accessible. Virtually every page presents provocative and well-grounded insights that reshape what we thought we knew about the Romans and their interconnected world of nature, law, and religion. It is required reading for historians and philosophers, classicists, and anyone interested in antiquity and the bases of human knowledge about the natural world.”
(Lawrence M. Principe, Johns Hopkins University)

“At the intersection of classics, history, and philosophy of science, this is a very original book that explores Roman ways of knowing the world and shows how, despite seeming irrational or completely alien to us today, those views of nature did make perfect sense. Engagingly written, replete with insights and flashes of humor, and addressing current debates in several disciplines, What Did the Romans Know? will finally put to rest the idea that ‘Roman science’ is a contradiction in terms.”
(Serafina Cuomo, Birkbeck, University of London)

About the Author

Daryn Lehoux is professor of classics at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is the author of Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226471144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226471143
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bonnie_blu on March 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not so much an analysis of Roman science as it is an analysis of how ancient Romans apprehended the world in which they lived. In this regard, the author succeeds brilliantly. He shows that ancient Romans had a significantly and dramatically different view of "reality" than modern humans, and that one can only understand them by understanding this worldview. Lehoux deconstructs primary Roman sources in order to reconstruct the Roman worldview. In my opinion, the book is more suited for academics than for non-academics since it tackles complicated concepts and uses the terminology of philosophy to elucidate them. However, for those who have a firm understanding of philosophy and ancient Rome, this book is an invaluable resource.
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What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking
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