Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period : 330 B.C.-A.D. 400

By Stanley E. Porter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
HISTORICAL PROSE

Stefan Rebenich

University of Mannheim, Germany


I

In the first century BC, Dionysius of Halicarnassus already laments that a whole day would not suffice to enumerate all the Greek authors who had written historical works after the death of Alexander.1 In fact, the rich historical production of the fourth century continued without a break in the Hellenistic age.2 A host of names have come down to us, but with the exception of the Histories of Polybius the original works are lost. However, the content and rhetorical structure of quite a number of them can be reconstructed from the compilations of later periods, above all from Diodorus Siculus, who wrote in the time of Augustus, from the Lives of Plutarch (about AD 100), and from Imperial and Byzantine authors who made use of Hellenistic historians.3 Dionysius moreover criticizes the linguistic shortcomings of the post-classical historical writing, and adduces as crown witnesses in particular Phylarchus, Duns and Polybius. This sweeping judgment however fails to recognize the divergent lines of development and takes no notice of the different models which can be identified in Greek historiography from the fourth century on. Thus Polybius himself brings against Phylarchus,4 a historian of the third century BC, the reproach that he had betrayed the proper task of historical

1 D.H. Camp. 4:30.

2 On the earlier Greek historians, who are not discussed in this survey, cf. the
general surveys and resources mentioned in the bibliographical appendix.

3 There is a detailed listing of the individual historians in W. von Christ and
W. Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, II:1 (HAW, 7.2.1; 6th edn.; Munich
1920), pp. 204fF. The standard edition is by F. Jacoby in FGrHist (see bibliographi-
cal appendix).

4 On Phylarchus cf. T. W. Africa, Phylarchus and the Spartan Revolution (Berkeley-Los
Angeles 1961); E. Gabba, “Studi su Filarco”, Athenaeum 35 (1957), pp. 3–55 and
193–239; J. Kroymann, RE Sup. 8 (1956), pp. 471–89; P. Pédech, Trots historiens
méconnus: Theopompe, Duris, Phylarque
(Paris 1989).

-265-

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