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What’s so New about Historicist Anxiety over a Usable Past?

“How wrong it is to cite the Romans at every turn!” wrote Francesco Guicciardini, contemporary critic of Machiavelli. “For any comparison [of Florence’s present to the Roman past],” Guicciardini explained, “it would be necessary to have a city with conditions like theirs, and then to govern it according to their example.”1 Thinking of Machiavelli’s ecstasy over the Roman example, Guiccardini cautioned: “One should not praise antiquity so far that one condemns all modern uses which were not current with the Romans, for experience has revealed many things not thought of by the ancients, and because, furthermore, their origins were different, Read more