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Horst Steinke


tive ring structure. As can be readily seen, the selection of the

highlights of each segment already reflects the theorized sym-

metric arrangement


. While the

Scienza nuova

is divided into five



, the proposed subdivision does not strictly adhere to this

numerical template but endeavors to be guided and determined

rather by the contents of individual parts of the work, regardless

of where the dividing line between them may be situated in the




The result is the following layout:


: Book I, §§ 43-118: Discussion of the Chronological Ta-



(a synoptic listing of notable developments among the He-

brews, Chaldeans, Scythians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks,

and Romans). Vico’s central aim is to identify «the proper start-

ing point for universal history, which all scholars say is defective

in its beginnings» (§ 51). He presents Egyptian civilization in

terms of the trifold partition into «the three ages of gods, heroes

and men» (§ 68), and then deals with selective Greek and Roman

history as they exemplify these “macro” tendencies. Rome, in

particular, is portrayed in terms of its laws and forms of govern-

ance, and as «an instance of an ideal eternal history traversed in

time by the histories of all nations» (§ 114).


: Book I, §§ 119-360: This part of Book I is divided in three

sections, entitled “Elements”, “Principles”, and “Method”, re-

spectively. In the “Elements”, one of the key programmatic “ax-

ioms” is: «Doctrines must take their beginning from that of the

matters of which they treat» (§ 314); another is the need for both

“philosophy” and “philology” (§ 140) to become a «new art of

criticism» (§ 143), and the existence of a «common sense of men

with respect to human needs or utilities, which are the two

sources of the natural law» (§§ 141-145). Vico correlates the

three “ages” with three types of “languages”, human behavior,

and governance, with the most extensive treatment of the



of human civilization, and Roman political history,

especially, at its inception. In the “Principles”, referring back to