The Inheritance of Historiography, 350-900

By Christopher Holdsworth; T.P. Wiseman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION: CLASSICAL
HISTORIOGRAPHY

Historia vero testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae,
nuntia vetustatis…

How did the ancient world believe history should be written? The most succinct answer to that question comes in Cicero’s treatise On the orator. One could hardly ask for a better authority—the first great master of Latin prose style, the interpreter of Greek literary culture to his fellow-Romans, a man of experience with a sense of the breadth of humane studies that took him beyond the schematic rules and categories of mere pedagogic instruction.

Cicero refers to history in book II of the de oratore, where ‘Antonius’ is maintaining the universal scope of the orator’s competence—political and forensic oratory, of course, but also ethical persuasion, praise, blame, consolation and so on:1

As for history, which is time’s witness, the light of truth, the survival of
memory, the instructor of human life and the reporter of the past, whose
voice but the orator’s can entrust it to immortality?

‘The instructor of human life’—in the context of the orator’s ethical function, history takes its place as a means of moral education. Through ‘Antonius’, Cicero was attacking the rhetorical theorists’ crude division of oratory into political, forensic and epideictic (‘display’), the last of which consisted mainly of panegyric and its converse (psogos, censure). History was regarded as closely related to, and in some people’s view even a subdivision of, epideictic oratory;2 for Cicero, and for the greatest of the Roman historians themselves,3 what that meant was the historian’s duty to praise and blame as he saw fit, to produce examples of moral behaviour for his readers to imitate or avoid.

As ‘Antonius’ develops his theme, that the rhetoricians’ third category should be understood as the whole range of moral exhortation, he comes back naturally to history.4 After a digression on the state of the art, and the inadequacy of Roman historians vis-à-vis Greek, he sums up the aims and methods of historiography as follows:5

Everyone knows history’s first law, not to dare to say anything false, and
its second, not to be afraid to say anything true. There must be no suspicion
of partiality or malice in what the historian writes. These foundations are
of course familiar to everyone; as for the building itself, that rests on the
subject matter and the language.

-1-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Inheritance of Historiography, 350-900
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 139

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.