Essay on Ancient Greece: Interpreting Herodotus and Thucydides

Essay on Ancient Greece: Interpreting Herodotus and Thucydides

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Interpreting Herodotus and Thucydides Through the Context of an Intended Audience


Our perspectives on historical events in Ancient Greece are heavily reliant on the context and explanations given by chroniclers and early historians of antiquity. It is easily forgotten that these texts were written for an ancient reader base, and that a reading over two thousand years later was of secondary consequence to their authors. For this essay, I will explore the motivations of early historians through their early intended audiences. To begin the search for a better understanding of the classical readers of the historical literature, one starts with a simplification of the initial question and the narrow limitations it holds. The few known testimonies given by early readers can in their own meaningfulness, be supplemented by a look at the prerequisites to being one of these readers and understand their motivations to read these historical texts. Ancient readers of literature are hardly comparable to the reader audience of the modern age. Only a very select few would have been in a position to view literature as a sophisticated material through an analytical understanding; the admired works of antiquity would have been a “read-only” material1, through which one memorized events through a stable lens. One must recognize that this would have been a vanishingly small circle of readers, composed mostly of the authors and a social elite with the corresponding leisure and education to have had access to these texts, rather than the massive, diverse groups that read these texts today. Even when texts were read, it was of course different from today - the holding of the papyrus roll was much more uncomfortable than our current reading habits...


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... Alexandria, which was the major library for all of Egypt.
(16) L. Candora, Il ciclo storico, Belfagor 26, (1971) Pg. 653-670.
(17) (18) F. Jacoby, Hecataeus, (1912), Ln. 2749, Sc. 2749.
(18) J.T. Shotwell, The History of History, (NYC, 1939) Pg. 172.
(19) (20) F. Jacoby, Herodotus, Ln. 242, Sc. 8.
(21) S. Flory, Who Read Herodotus’ Histories?, (1980), Pg. 12-28.
(22) Xenos, Parodies.
(24) This is where I apply our knowledge of a reader base to discover the intentions of Herodotus and Thucydides.
(25) H. Strasburger, Herodot Als Gesichtsforscher, Studien II, Pg. 913.
(26) Hekataios’ Vorwort zu seiner Genealogie.
(27) Thucydides Book III, section 38 lines 4-5.
(28) R Kannicht, The Ancient Channel Between Philosophy and Poetry, Pg. 23
and C. MacLeod, Homer on Poetry and the Poetry of Homer, Essays, Pg. 6
(29) G. Avenarius, Lukians Schrift, Pg 22-29.

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