Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Book Details

Publisher  Oxford University Press
Publication Date   November 8, 2012
ISBN  0199693978
Pages  384

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Herodotus, the "Father of History," is infamously known for having employed elements more akin to mythological tales than to unvarnished "truth" in translating his historical research into narrative form. While these narratives provide valuable source material, he could not have surmised the hostile reception his work would receive in later generations. This mythical aspect of the Histories led many successors, most notoriously Plutarch, to blame Herodotus for spinning far-fetched lies, and to set him apart as an untrustworthy historian. Echoes of the same criticism resounded in twentieth-century scholarship, which found it difficult to reconcile Herodotus' ambition to write historical stories "as they really happened" with the choices he made in shaping their form.

This volume brings together 13 ground-breaking essays written by specialists in the fields of ancient Greek literature and history. Each article seeks to review, re-establish, and rehabilitate the origins, forms, and functions of the Histories' mythological elements. These contributions throw new light on Herodotus' talents as a narrator, underline his versatility in shaping his work, and reveal how he was inspired by and constantly engaged with his intellectual milieu. The Herodotus who emerges is a Herculean figure, dealing with a vast quantity of material, struggling with it as with the Hydra's many-growing heads, and ultimately rising with consummate skill to the organizational and presentational challenges it posed. The volume ultimately concludes that far from being unrelated to the "historical" aspects of Herodotus' text, the "mythic" elements prove vital to his presentation of history.

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