Brill's Companion to Herodotus

Brill's Companion to Herodotus

Brill's Companion to Herodotus

Brill's Companion to Herodotus

Synopsis

Herodotus' "Histories can be read in many ways. Their literary qualities, never in dispute, can be more fully appreciated in the light of recent developments in the study of pragmatics, narratology, and orality. Their intellectual status has been radically reassessed: no longer regarded as naove and 'archaic', the "Histories are now seen as very much a product of the intellectual climate of their own day - not only subject to contemporary literary, religious, moral and social influences, but actively contributing to the great debates of their time. Their reliability as historical and ethnographic accounts, a matter of controversy even in antiquity, is being debated with renewed vigour and increasing sophistication. This "Companion offers an up-to-date and in-depth overview of all these current approaches to Herodotus' remarkable work.

Excerpt

'As one must beware of the beetle in the rosebush, so must one beware of the slander and gossip lurking under its pleasant and gentle surface,' said Plutarch of Herodotus' Histories (On the Malice of Herodotus 43). Plutarch was not the first or the last to appreciate Herodotus' literary qualities but question his merits as a historian and ethnographer. In a more sympathetic but no less critical spirit, this Companion to Herodotus seeks to illuminate both sides of his work. The following chapters fully reflect the rich, complicated, and sometimes controversial nature of the Histories. Sometimes they are in disagreement with one another, testifying to Herodotus' ever enigmatic position at the beginning of historiography, as well as to his own avowed intention not to provide easy solutions, but to let the reader choose from the alternatives he has assembled in his historiē. Often, chapters overlap, showing the extent to which many of the issues which Herodotus raises are part of an intricately woven network of themes, reflecting a consistent view of the world and its history.

The opening chapters examine the nature of Herodotus' work and its place within the oral and literary traditions of the late fifth century BC. Egbert Bakker begins by addressing the questions raised by Herodotus' famous opening sentence, in particular the meaning of the terms historiē and apodexis. He concludes that rather than referring to the publication of the work, the term apodexis presents the work as a lasting achievement and at the same time as a potentially controversial statement. John Moles proceeds to modify the widespread idea that one purpose of the Histories was to praise Athens. Herodotus acknowledged this city's important role when the freedom of Greece was at stake, but he implicitly and subtly suggested that the Athenian empire of his own day resembled the tyrannical and oriental empires of the past, and in doing so hoped to alert the Athenians to the dangers inherent in their present behaviour. In the next chapter, Simon Slings addresses the problem of the style of the Histories. He argues that Herodotus' language is characterized throughout by 'oral strategies,' which can at times also be put to . . .

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