Under current restrictions, our shops are closed to the public, but we are still processing online, telephone and email orders as normal.

COULANGES, Fustel de.

La Cité antique.

Étude sur le culte, le droit, les institutions de la Grèce et de Rome.

Paris: Durand, 1864 Stock Code: 114886
Reserve Ask us a question

First edition of the author's best known work, published at a time of renewed interest in religious history. "Its fundamental idea is that the beliefs of man are the determinants, and even the creators, of his institutions. In the preface to La Cité antique Coulanges wrote: 'The past never completely dies for men. Man may forget it, but he keeps it with him always. For such as he himself is in each epoch he is the product and résumé of all anterior epochs. If he descends into his own soul, he can rediscover there these different epochs, and distinguish them according to the impress which each had made on him.' () In antiquity Fustel found that religious beliefs were most powerful. Starting with the origins of the Greek and the Roman family, he discovered that the family group was built around the worship of deceased ancestors. Upon this cult of the dead was imposed a second religion: that of the forces of nature which was better adapted to social progress. This formed a sort of common denominator to all families and presided at the rise of cities, replacing diversity by unity of belief. The city was still modelled after the family; it had its hearth, its god, and its cult. Its law and institutions drew their roots from religion. In time men developed other interests and demanded new sanctions. A series of revolutions led to changes in government and in civil laws; the priest-king yielded to an oligarchy and that in turn to democracies. As the horizon of men widened, local deities were merged: 'la fusion des divinités locales prepara insensiblement la fusion des cités.' Thus a larger unity was presaged. Greek cosmopolitanism weakened the sense of patriotism, and Rome made the whole of the Mediterranean basin her own. The many cities yielded to one. With the advent of Christianity, however, a wedge was driven between religion and government, and with the ruin of the old religions, came the ruin of the old institutions. The new faith established a new society" (James Westfall Thompson & Bernard J. Holm, A History of Historical Writing, Volume 2, 1943, pp. 364-5).

Confused? Read our glossary


Octavo (214 x 135 mm). Contemporary dark green half shagreen by Gustave Schildknecht of Brussels (ticket to front pastedown), black morocco label, raised bands with dotted roll gilt, spine tips with rules and rolls gilt, marbled boards and endpapers, black speckled edges.


Early 20th-century ticket of Librairie Pierre Berès to front free endpaper, monogram book label to front pastedown, early inscription to half-title. Slight wear to joints and corners of boards, the occasional light spot to contents, a very good copy.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book