This introduction outlines two major claims that structure the argument of the book. First, it identifies the shared vocabulary for ghosts and images to argue that images of ghosts recursively depict the challenge of depiction and even of seeing itself, giving physical form to conflicting and overlapping systems of knowledge and classification. Second, it argues that such depictions acquire a particular salience in the Second Sophistic, a periodization coined in antiquity that identified a renaissance of Classical (i.e., fifth and fourth centuries BCE) Greek culture in the second and third centuries CE that was inflected by an intense historical self-consciousness and a spectral logic of untimely chronologies. Situating these issues through the lens of historical epistemology, it makes the case that images of ghosts are neither illustrations of ancient belief-patterns about the supernatural nor the afterlife more generally.
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