The book consists of six essays, four of which are based on prior lectures and were revised for this publication. The author, a professor of ancient history, discusses various methodological issues that significantly affect the research and writing of history about the ancient world. The six essays discuss the following issues: (1) what constitutes progress in the historiography of ancient Greece and ancient Rome; (2) what kinds of source materials are available to historians of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and what are the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of those source materials; (3) how useful and reliable are ancient documents to the historian, especially in light of their often incomplete and fragmentary nature; (4) what does it mean for a historian to try to tell history "how it really was" (Leopold von Ranke's "wie es eigentlich gewesen"); (5) whether historians have failed to discuss war in the ancient world in terms of its own historical context, without interjecting modern anachronisms into their discussions; and (6) the pros and cons of Max Weber's description of the ancient Greek city-state.
In the Epilogue, the author summarizes and reiterates four contentions that constitute the crucial themes for the discussions in his six essays: (i) the study of history is not a science; (ii) because historical evidence does not speak for itself, the historian "must ask the right questions ... and provide the right conceptual context" for the historical evidence; (iii) it is necessary to reject the tradition that ancient sources written in Greek or Latin should be given "a privileged status" and should be considered "immune from the canons of judgment and criticism that are applied to all other documentation"; and (iv) the historian should ask two questions about any ancient written source: "why was it written? why was it 'published'?"
Despite a few lapses into turgid, academic prose, the author discusses the issues in an interesting and thoughtful manner, makes provocative and insightful observations, and offers plausible contentions and arguments to support his ideas. This scholarly book of historiographical essays is addressed to professional historians and serious students of history. Casual readers of history would find this book daunting and difficult to follow and understand. Readers looking for a general survey of historiographical issues or an introduction to historiography should look at other books, such as Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Third Edition; John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past; and Robert C. Williams, The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History.