Michael Rostovtzeff

Michael Rostovtzeff books and biography


Michael Rostovtzeff

Michael Rostovtzeff

Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff, or Rostovtsev (Russian: Михаи́л Ива́нович Росто́вцев) (10 November 1870 [O.S. October 29], Zhitomir, Ukraine–October 20, 1952, New Haven, USA) was one of the 20th century's foremost authorities on ancient Greek, Iranian, and Roman history.

Upon completing his studies at the universities of Kiev and St. Petersburg, Rostovtsev served as an assistant and then as a full professor at the University of St. Petersburg. In 1918, he emigrated to the United States, where he accepted a chair at the University of Wisconsin before moving to Yale University in 1925. He oversaw all archaeological activities of the latter institution in general and the excavations of Dura-Europos in particular.

While working in Russia, Rostovtsev was recognized as the world's preeminent authority on ancient history of South Russia and Ukraine. He summed up his vast knowledge on the subject in Iranians and Greeks in South Russia (1922) and Skythien und der Bosporus (1925). His most important archaeological findings at Yale were described in Dura-Europos and Its Art (1938).

Rostovtsev is remembered as the first historian to examine the ancient economies in terms of capitalism and revolutions. Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire (1926) and A Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (1941) were his pioneering works that transferred the attention of historians from military or political events to global economic or social problems that had been formerly hidden behind their surface.


  • Bongard-Levin, G.M. The great Russian historian M. Rostovtsev in the USA: The years of exile. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999 (in Russian, ISBN 0-7734-3226-4).
  • Bowersock, G.W. "Rostovtzeff in Madison" in American Scholar, Spring 1986, Vol. 55 Issue 3, pp. 391–400.
  • Hopkins, Clark. The discovery of Dura-Europos. New Heaven: Yale University Press, 1979 (ISBN 0-300-02288-3).
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo. "M.I. Rostovtzeff" in The Cambridge Journal, 1954, 7, pp. 334–346. = Studies in historiography (The Academy Library, TB 1288). New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966, pp. 91–104. = Studies on Modern Scholarship. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-08545-0), pp. 32–43.
  • Reinhold, Meyer. "Historian of the Classic World: A Critique of Rostovtzeff", Studies in Classical History and Society (American Classical Studies; 45). New York: Oxford University Press, 2002 (ISBN 0-19-514543-7), pp. 82–100.
  • Shaw, Brent D. "Under Russian eyes: [Review article]", The Journal of Roman studies, Vol. 82. (1992), pp. 216–228.
  • Wes, Marinus A. Michael Rostovtzeff, historian in exile: Russian roots in an American context (Historia-Einzelschriften; 65). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1990 (ISBN 3-515-05664-5).
    • Reviewed by Brent D. Shaw in The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 82. (1992), pp. 216–228.
  • Wes, Marinus A. "The Russian background of the young Rostovtzeff", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol. 37, No. 2. (1988), pp. 207–221.
  • Wes, Marinus A. "The Correspondence between Rostovtzeff and Westermann. A Note on Gaetano De Sanctis", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol. 42, No. 1. (1993), pp. 125–128.

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