The place of 'theory' in the study of the past is controversial. According to some historians, the use of ideas and concepts from disciplines like economics and sociology produces anachronistic and distorted accounts. Others argue that all historians make use of generalizations about human nature and the workings of society - in other words, some sort of 'theory' - but that most are unconscious of the assumptions on which their accounts of the past depend.
This book explores the use of theories, models and concepts in ancient history, focusing on examples of explicitly theoretical accounts that have implications for all historical interpretations. It offers an introduction to a wide range of issues in the interpretation of historical evidence, considering the ways in which historians' assumptions and generalizations should be evaluated. It then surveys a range of ideas and theories relating to such topics as ancient social structure, the ancient economy, the environment, gender and sexuality, myth and rationality, considering how such theories have been used in the study of ancient history and how they might change historians' views of the past.