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Simply put, antiquarianism represents the investigation of the ancient past. Antiquarianism traces its
roots back to the second century BC, when figures such Marcus Terntius Varro established antiquarianism
as an aspect of Roman intellectual life (Momigliano 288). From the fifteenth century to the seventeenth
century, antiquarianism progressed and expanded to a peak level of activity during the eighteenth
century. The Enlightenment’s progressive thinking led countries to search for a strong sense of national
identity. As the contemporary desire to establish a nation’s identity and pride grew in Europe, so did
antiquarianism. Antiquarianism defines the investigation conducted by scholars on the ancient world
through texts and materials. Described as an important forerunner of the modern historical sciences,
antiquarianism collected raw material from which narratives of history were derived. Antiquarianism has
the ability to verify the events of history with material derived from evidence (Sweet). Antiquaries used a
collection of textual remains and objects to investigate and interpret (Jenkins 168).The study focused
with particular attention on manuscripts, ancient artifacts and historical sites. Antiquaries reconstructed
the culture of the ancient past, reproducing their interpretation of the ancient culture’s religion, law, and
clothing etc. The progressive eighteenth century created change, and antiquarianism as a study
highlighted the ongoing changed. The processes of loss and extinction of culture troubles audiences, and
as a result, the retrieval of the past becomes necessary. By collecting antiquities, antiquarianism captures
the past by collecting the material that helps solidify the disappearing culture. By possessing the ancient
artifacts and textual remains, remnants of the ancient culture allow for the culture to continue to
exist. Eighteenth century Scotland helps capture the larger themes existing in Europe that created a
demand for antiquarianism and encouraged antiquaries to examine the past. After the Union of
Parliaments, antiquarianism addressed the growing desire to understand the nation, and its identity
within the newly British context. (Dunnigan 87). Antiquaries investigated the ancient past in attempts to
understand the country’s past. By understanding Scotland’s past, antiquaries could distinguish what was
shared and what was British (Dunnigan 88). The collected artifacts and textual remains give concreteness
to a country’s cultural history. Scotland’s emphasis and use of antiquarianism to help secure a national
identity in a newly British context provides an example of what European countries were doing during the
progressive times of the eighteenth century.

Antiquaries during their investigations embarked on an “endeavor to capture

universal knowledge” (Jenkins). During the seventeenth century, philologists,
lawyers and doctors also practice antiquarianism . As a fashionable
engagement in the eighteenth century, antiquarianism was practice by the
wealthy and educated. However, in the eighteenth century, as travel
commercialized and geographical knowledge grew, the social range of
antiquaries expanded to the general public (Miller). From the fifteenth
century, curiosity of the anciet past was no longer limited
to nobility. Curoisty spread, becoming an important aspect of a growing
shared culture between the nobility and the bourgeoisie. The general
European culture, especially during the eighteenth century, allowed for the
information brought back from expeditions to reach all audiences. The
interest in foreign, ancient artifacts grew as knowledge of their existence
spread along with the explorers' travel narratives. Antiquarianism recruited
men of talen regardless of their social standing alongside the educated and
wealthy. Many figures through history stand out as notable antiquaries

Notable antiquaries, beginning in the first century BC, help describe the
progress of antiquarianism throughout history until the eighteenth century, a
time when antiquarian activity flourished. Considered the greatest
antiquarian, and perhaps the greatest antiquarian of all time, Marcus
Terentius Varro (116-26 BC) established the foundation of antiquarianism. His
work created a systematic survey of Roman life through the investigation of
historical evidence provided by language, literature and custom. He coined
the term “antiquitates,” and popularized antiquarianism as a fashionable
activity in Roman intellectual circles (Cornell 21). Despite the vast number of
works produced by Varro, only small remnants of his publications survived
the passage of time. Flavio Biondo (1392-1463) established himself during the
fifteenth century and revived the antiquarianism practices of Varro that were
lost during the Middle Ages. During the fifteenth and sixteenth century,
antiquaries began to improve upon the foundation established by Varro.
Antiquaries, such as Johannes Rosinus and Carlo Sigonio, combined literary
with material evidence and expanded the areas of interest to Greek and
oriental lands (Miller 10).Antiquarianism’s growth in England can be
contributed to John Leland during the sixteenth century. Considered the first
Englishman to identify himself as an antiquary, Leland strove to contribute to
the preservation of monuments and manuscripts of the past. Leland
influenced antiquaries, and in particular was a driving force for a well-known
antiquary of the sixteenth century, William Camden. Although inspired by
Leland, Camden differed because his work represented a reconstructed
journey through time, rather than through space (Herendeen 199). Camden
strove to “restore antiquity to Britaine, and Britaine to its aniquity.”Camden’s
focus attempted to illustrate the visible traces of the past that were
recognizable in the present landscape of Great Britain (Herendeen 200). He
established himself as an inspiration for all British antiquaries. At the
beginning of the seventh century, another figure, Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-
1657) impacted antiquarianism’s progress. An Italian scholar, Cassiano
collected and created paper museums that gathered original images and
textual remains together in an archive. He gathered drawings of early
medieval work that crossed many areas such as natural history, geological
samples and botanical illustrations. As an antiquary, he introduced a new
systematic methodology that would become more popular during the
eighteenth century (Jenkins 170). His work is interpreted as a culmination of
a two-millennia-long tradition of interest in the classification of antiquities.
During the eighteenth century, a time that is considered the peak of
antiquarianism, Comte de Calyus became the first to attempt to narrate the
civilizations of antiquity. He did so by emphasizing objects over textual
remains. Different from previous antiquaries, Calyus attempted to lead an
audience through ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, Rome and
France. Caylus separated himself from Varro by illustrating an
interconnectedness of the culture of antiquity in his work, an idea differing
greatly from Varro’s subject based classification (Jenkins 171). Individual
efforts faded during the latter half of the eighteenth century as society gave
rise to intellectual groups such as the Society of Dilettanti. These societies
represented the Enlightenment’s new attempt at collecting antiquaries
(Jenkins 173).

The classical past could instruct men in all aspects of culture, ranging from
agriculture and architecture, to equestrianism and medical science (Jenkins
168). Through antiquarianism, objects cast a larger picture of history.
Inscriptions and objects helped give detail to vague areas of understanding.
The collection of images, texts and objects give greater insight into one state
of development from another state in a civilization’s history (Jenkins 171). By
examining the evidence of the past, one could refine and challenge the
interpretations of the past. Collections gathered and inscriptions deciphered
supplemented eighteenth century recorded history. Studying objects paired
with texts illuminated the history of times and regions both previously
understood and unobserved. Deciphered hieroglyphics and cuneiform helped
improve the systematic study of language, improving the understanding of
the previously unknown. Antiquarianism possessed importance because the
investigative attitude reflects a culture’s desire to understand, to listen and
see past cultures and civilizations. The narrative constructed by antiquaries
were regarded as a “storehouse of timeless examples for the use of the moral
philosopher or political pragmatist” (Swann 108) In addition, the
understandings provided by antiquities inspired utopian dreams in the
eighteenth century. Antiquarianism allows for current culture to engage in
dialogue with the past. Usually narrative of important and military events
were examined through antiquarianism. (Miller 2013, 148) The progressive
thinking of the Enlightenment period encouraged new beliefs, such as
freedom from government. Aspiring free-thinkers of the eighteenth century
political world found parallels between their ambitions for a republic and the
republics of Athens and Rome. Ambitious political beliefs encouraged events
such as the American War of Independence and the French Revolution,
challenging and changing the eighteenth century culture. For example, the
Founding Fathers of the United States of American often cited Ancient Roman
and Greek philosophers in their speeches and writings. Polybius, an Ancient
Greek historian, has been credited as one of many influences on the
America's Fouding Fathers' political philosophy. Polybius' belief in the
separation of powers stood as a defining aspect in the United States
Constitution (Chinard 40).

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