Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff

Portrait of Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff

Born: Zhitomir, Ukraine - 10 November 1870
Died: New Haven, Connecticut - 20 October 1952

Among the most influential historians of the 20th century, Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff studied at the University of Kiev and the St. Petersburg University. He then taught at the Alexandrovskiy Lyceum, St. Petersburg Univeristy, and the Bestuzhev Courses, one of Russia's first higher-education institutions for women. By the time of the October Revolution, Rostovtzeff was a full professor at St. Petersburg University and established as an international authority on the Ancient World, particularly the ancient history of South Russia and Ukraine. His revolutionary approach was to concentrate on economic and social developments rather than military history - his masters thesis, for example, was on the history of tax farming.

He was made a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and a corresponding member of the British Academy in 1917. He left St. Petersburg in 1918, first for Oxford and then, in 1920, for a professorship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where to gain employment he had to prove he was neither a communist nor a Jew. He moved to Yale in 1925, where he held the Sterling Chair of Ancient History and Classical Archeology until he retired from academia in 1944. While at Yale he directed the excavations at Dura-Europos in Syria and wrote his two greatest works, Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire (1926) and A Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (1941). He was also President of the American Historical Association in 1935-1936.