When researching Classical ‘factual’ prose it becomes painfully obvious how varied our attitudes are to the individual writers. There are marked differences in how much we write about them and how much we teach them as well as our attitudes to the literary skills or historical accuracy. Thus it is easier to write a bibliography for Herodotus than it is for Strabo; there is far more commentary on Polybius than Pliny the Elder and there are only a handful of experts on any of the fragmentary authors.
As a phd student comparing and contrasting different works this is incredibly frustrating – I can talk about the arguments scholars have had on Herodotus’ attitudes to non-greeks but there is no overall study of the same group in Diodorus (presumably because of the opinion that his work represents the attitudes of several sources and is therefore inconsistent – but surely that is interesting too?). I am not confident enough in my own ability to make too many assertions where I must go against other scholarship, and whilst this is in theory less ridiculous if there is only one authority on a topic it is more daunting and more complex to defend. But mostly it makes writing a literature review look really unbalanced or out of date!
As a reception enthusiast, on the other hand, the way that our attitudes have changed fascinates me. Why do some topics keep grabbing our attention? How have our publications changed as less people access texts in original languages? When is political history more important and when is the cultural material more prevalent?
I don’t know the answers to these questions – in fact I haven’t even begun to compile data on what is published when (has anyone ever created stats from L’Année philologique?) – but I know I want to find out.
[On a related topic: Has anyone ever created a digital, cross-referenceable Sandys? And how long do you think it would take to create a table of every critical edition and translation since Gutenberg?]