Matthieu de Bakker
This chapter argues that authorial comments are an important tool of Thucydides’ historiographical strategy. As the comments interrelate with the longer authorial essays, the surrounding narrative parts of the Histories, and the speeches of its actors, they guide the reader in interpreting rich, complex text. Authorial comments are typically found at the opening of episodes or at the introduction of characters, and thus often create a frame for evaluating subsequent passages. When comments are asides, they may concern topics distant from Thucydides’ focus, like divination and early Greek legend. Although pushed to the fringes of his work, these topics display significant relations to contemporary events. Finally, the frequency of authorial comments increases in Book 8, the narrative of which points to a growing fragmentation of the Hellenic world, and needs more authorial guidance to remain understandable.
This chapter reviews the campaign and battle narratives of Thucydides’ History. It discusses the structural role of campaign narratives in the History, and then focusses on the prologues, actions, and speeches of the campaign narratives themselves. It also takes several battle narratives under examination, asking what questions these battle stories answer and how they function in the larger narrative. Finally, the chapter engages with the question of how these stories related to their ancient Athenian audience, which was the very first audience, as far as we know, to be able to read accounts of the military events of a recent war.
Thucydides presents the words and deeds of individuals chiefly in terms of their importance for understanding the war. He characterizes leading actors through their speeches, indications of motivation, authorial comments, and the narrative itself. These techniques allow remarkable nuance, even ambiguity, of interpretation. This chapter examines the representations of Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Brasidas, and Thucydides himself, highlighting the similar and contrasting traits that unite them. In Thucydides’ narrative, Pericles’ pride in Athens, refusal to yield to Sparta, and brilliant oratory lead Athens into the war. Nicias evaluates the expedition to Sicily with Periclean prudence, but his fear of a change in fortune and of the Athenian assembly lead to the expedition’s defeat. Alcibiades shares Pericles’ aristocratic background and strategic imagination, but his self-centeredness and contempt for customs twice cause the Athenians to lose trust. Through delineating these individual characteristics and behaviors, Thucydides clarifies the war's narrative.
The Chinese tradition of historical writing is rich and complex. That tradition is outlined here from its earliest appearance in such canonical texts as Shangshu, Chunqiu, and Zuozhuan down to the establishment of the Tang Bureau of History in 629 and the completion of Liu Zhiji’s masterful book-length study of Chinese historiography in 710, a text that provides much of the framework for the discussion. The chapter explores such issues as the tension throughout this period between official historical writing, sponsored by the ruler and sometimes sustained by the government bureaucracy, and historical texts produced by private parties; the search for appropriate forms to recount the past; and the boundaries of “histories” in early Chinese systems of bibliographic classification.
The historiographical writings of Arrian, Appian, Herodian, and Cassius Dio pose interesting challenges to how we characterize Second Sophistic literature. With its ostensible goal of telling the truth about the past, imperial Greek historiography seems incompatible with the large bulk of imperial Greek writing that is more obviously inspired by declamation and whose main goal is the virtuosic display of erudition, or paideia. Furthermore, inasmuch as this historiography focuses primarily on Roman history, it hardly fulfills the stereotype of Second Sophistic literature as thematically Hellenocentric, even if it is similarly characterized by linguistic Atticism. This chapter therefore argues for an expanded definition of the Second Sophistic that can meaningfully accommodate the peculiarly hybrid nature of historiography on the levels of both genre and cultural politics—as “earnest” history somewhat dominated by rhetoric, and as work better described as “Greco-Roman” than as essentially “Greek.”
This article traces the development of historiography in Late Antiquity. It highlights the delimited cultural circles where old and new forms of history writing were adapted and created from generation to generation as the Graeco-Roman world became progressively Christian. It explores the factors that shaped historiography, and the impact of Christianity on the changing realities of those who wrote and read history, and how history was composed and communicated. Late antique historiography was more culturally unified and less compartmentalised than previously thought.
Christina Shuttleworth Kraus
Like other genres in antiquity, the various prose forms of Roman historiographical narrative had certain formal attributes and aroused certain expectations. But just as it is impossible to get a full sense of its function and meaning by considering only one side of a coin, so it is a mistake to also separate rigorously ‘historiography’ from ‘biography’. For, though ancient authors were conscious of, and sometimes indeed formulated, distinctions between historia and uita, those distinctions – like other generic and sub-generic boundaries – were more honoured in the breach (or the ‘Kreuzung’) than the observance. Through the analogy of the coin, this article explores the similarities as well as the differences in these two literary modes with which the Romans preserved their cultural memory. Comparisons are made in terms of form, content, and purpose.
It is something of a miracle that Rome continues to exert influence on political thought in today's liberal egalitarian democracies. Roman political theory grew out of the experience of a traditionalist, militaristic oligarchy whose priorities may be fairly described as the acquisition of glory and riches and the domination of the ancillary populace. In contrast, the establishment of democratic government in Athens in the revolution of 508/7
By examining variations in scale and techniques of expansion and contraction in Thucydides’ narrative, the essay identifies a mimetic principle in his writing—that the presentation of an episode in the work should normally be proportionate to its significance. Significance, however, is not measured by purely military factors. In fact, expansion is often an indicator of intense suffering, pathos. Among the techniques of expansion and compression discussed are allusions, superlatives, figures of speech (such as litotes), direct and indirect discourse, day-by-day narrative, enargeia (vividness) and thematic repetition (“reprise”). Many of these techniques, although not all, were also discussed among the ancient rhetoricians, who were alert to their emotional power.
The great number of set speeches in Thucydides’ work reflects the importance of the art of persuasion in his world, but also exhibits an awareness of the limitations of that art. Far from suggesting straightforward explanations, in their multifarious, dynamic relation to their narrative contexts, immediate or remote, Thucydides’ speeches create a dialectical historiography. Their diversity regarding a series of criteria (speakers, audiences, themes, communicative situations, impact, way of introduction, stylistic choices) is sometimes concealed by the uniformity of language and common ideological presuppositions. While indirect discourse allows for more authorial control, direct speeches combine particular points of view with considerations on general matters. The openness and ambiguity of Thucydides’ rhetorically formulated statement on his method of composing his speeches is in alignment with his effort to keep nothing more than is necessary or helpful (for his purposes) from the original speeches.