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Lecture 14

CLA260 - lecture 14

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Ben Akrigg

CLA260H1S Method and Theory in Classics Session 14: History 2  One major problem for historians, and everyone interested in the past: how similar to, or different from, us were people in the past?  The writing of narrative history is an invention of classical Greece: the texts of Herodotus and Thucydides stand very early in (though not quite at the beginning of) the tradition. o Both Herodotus and Thucydides write in the late fifth century BC. o Herodotus‟ subject is the conflict between some Greek cities and the Persian empire at the start of the fifth century (the main conflict taking place in 480-479 BCE); Thucydides‟ is the conflict between Athens and Sparta which starts in 431 BCE and ends in 404 – though his account is unfinished and breaks off in 411. o What makes the new genre most obviously different from what the Greeks have done before is that it is a prose genre. o Epic poetry, especially that of Homer (though see also the passage of Hesiod‟s Works and Days in the previous handout), remains for the Greeks an important source of stories about a more distant past; Herodotus and Thucydides write about much more recent events. Both (though in different ways) take a self-consciously critical attitude to the stories told about the heroic past of epic and myth, however (see Herodotus 1.1-5, and contrast with Thucydides 1.3-11). o It is Herodotus who uses the word historie to describe his project though for him it means something like „inquiry‟ with no necessary implication of talking about past time (compare the passage from Iliad 18). Thucydides does not use the term: he describes what he is doing as sungraphe – „writing down‟. o Take particular note of what the textbook say
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