Rostovtsev, Mikhail Ivanovich

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(18701952), Russian-American historian and archeologist of Greek and Roman antiquity.

Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtsev was born in Kiev and educated at the Universities of Kiev and St. Petersburg. He taught at St. Petersburg University, and in the Higher Women's Courses until 1918, rising to become a professor in 1912. His career before the revolution shows the international nature of academic life: He published widely in English, French, and German as well as Russian.

Rostovtsev refused to serve either in the Provisional Government or in the Communist government, and in emigration published extensive polemics against the Communists. In 1918 Rostovstev fled Russia, first to Oxford (19181920), and then to the United States where he was professor first at the University of Wisconsin (19201925) and then Yale University (19251944).

Rostovtsev's academic interests were extensive. Trained as a philologist, he wrote monographs on Roman tax farming and land tenure. As an art historian he also published important works on the art and history of south Russia that traced cultural influences in Scythian art from Greece to the borders of China. From 1928 to 1936 he lead Yale's excavations at Dura-Europos in Syria.

His greatest fame, however, rests on two large monographs: Economic and Social History of the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1926) and The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (Oxford, 1941). In both these works he emphasizes the role of the urban bourgeoisie in the development of the two related cultures, and their decline due to state intervention and outside attacks.

See also: education; universities


Momigliano, Arnaldo. (1966). Studies in Historiography. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Vernadsky, George. (1931). "M. I. Rostovtsev." Seminarium Kondakovianum 4:239252.

A. Delano DuGarm