Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovich

Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovich

Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovich (rŏstŏvˈtsĕf), 1870–1952, American historian, b. Kiev, Ukraine. He studied at the Univ. of St. Petersburg where he was professor of Latin and of Roman history from 1898 to 1918. He emigrated to the United States during the Russian Revolution, taught ancient history at the Univ. of Wisconsin (1920–25), and was appointed (1925) Sterling professor of ancient history and archaeology at Yale. From 1939 to 1944, when he received emeritus status, Rostovtzeff was director of archaeological studies at Yale. One of the most distinguished modern scholars of ancient history, Rostovtzeff won his chief reputation through his Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire (1926) and A History of the Ancient World (Vol. I, The Orient and Greece, 1926; Vol. II, Rome, 1927). The first of these was a pioneering effort in its application of the most recent archaeological research to an aspect of Roman history that until then had been neglected. These are admirable condensations and place the cultural, economic, and social aspects of ancient life on the same level of importance as political and military events. The work has taken its place among the chief modern contributions to Roman historiography, as has his parallel study A Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (1941). Among Rostovtzeff's other works in English are A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C. (1922) and Iranians and Greeks in South Russia (1922).
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Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovich


(also Rostovtsev, Rostovzeff). Born Oct. 29 (Nov. 10), 1870, in Kiev; died Oct. 20, 1952, in New Haven, Conn. Russian historian of antiquity and archaeologist.

Rostovtzeff was educated at the universities of Kiev and St. Petersburg. In 1898 he became a privatdocent, and in 1901 a professor at the University of St. Petersburg, where he remained until his emigration from Soviet Russia in 1918. From 1920 to 1925 he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and from 1925 to 1944 a professor at Yale University in New Haven. During the years 1928–37 he headed the excavations at Dura-Europos. Rostovtzeff was a member of many academies and learned societies, as well as the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities. He concentrated on the socioeconomic aspects of Hellenism and the Roman Empire and on the ancient history of southern Russia, where he elucidated the complex interrelationships between Greek, Persian, and local cultures. He also made a critical survey of the literary and archaeological sources pertaining to the history of the Scythians and the Bosporan state (The Scythians and the Bosporus, 1925).

Rostovtzeff s overall conception of the Greek and Roman world’s development, as set forth in his general works on the socioeconomic history of Hellenism and Rome, is one of modernization. It is built on a recognition of the existence in antiquity of capitalism, an entrepreneurial Greek and Roman bourgeoisie, and proletarian revolutions. Still, the huge mass of factual material collected by Rostovtzeff, his meticulous treatment and synthesis of this material, and a number of the conclusions he draws are of great scholarly interest.


Istoriia gosudarstvennogo otkupa ν Rimskoi imperii (ot Avgusta do Diokletiana). St. Petersburg, 1899.
Ellinistichesko-rimskii arkhitekturnyipeizazh. St. Petersburg, 1908.
Rozhdenie rimskoi imperii. Petrograd, 1918.
Studien zur Geschichte des römischen Kolonates. Berlin-Leipzig, 1910.
Mystic Italy. New York [1927].
Dura-Europos and Its Art. Oxford, 1938.
The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire. Oxford, 1926.
A History of the Ancient World, vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1926–27.
The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World, vols. 1–3. Oxford, 1941.


Borozdin, I. Uchenyezaslugi M. I. Rostovtseva. [Moscow, 1915.]
Momigliano, A. “In Memoria di M. Rostovtzeff.” Revista storica italiana, 1953, [vol.] 65, issue 4.


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