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The Greek Historians

af T. James Luce

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The Greeks invented history as a literary genre in the fifth century B.C. The first historians owed much to Homer and adopted his vivid and direct style in narrating historical events. Yet, despite the influence of Homer the birth of history was basically a reaction against mythical accounts of the past. Homer wrote about war and travel in foreign lands, in the distant and mythical past. In contrast, the Greek historians of the fifth century wrote about contemporary or very recent events, where eye witnesses could be interviewed and facts checked. The Greek Historians follows the development of history from Herodotus, via Thucydides, Xenophon and Polybius, until the Hellenistic age. It introduces the individual writers and their topics, yet it also outlines their attitudes to historiography and their criticisms of each other. Such themes as the uses and value of truth and causation are traced, as well as the growing constraints on free speech under Hellenistic monarchs and the Romans. Written in an accessible and captivating manner, with suggestions for further reading, this book serves as a lucid introduction to Greek historians and writing of history.… (mere)
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Very solid introduction--clear, short, easy to read. Wildly, wildly overpriced. Goddamn you Routledge, what is wrong with you? ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Luce summarizes the achievements of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Polybius in detail, and briefly discusses the achievements of Xenophon and various fragmentary historians.

This book is intended for use as an undergraduate text, and it fits that task admirably, giving a reliable overview of both the facts of his subjects' lives and compositions, as well as advancing some arguments about them. In addition, though, his writing is persuasive; at each chapter you are convinced that each historian's method is the best one: Herodotus's reporting of different versions and allowing the reader to decide the truth; Thucydides' close observation and multifaceted analysis; Polybius's intense commitment to uncovering the truth.

I'm not necessarily convinced by his argument that the early historians were heavily influenced by the pre-socratic philosophers (taking from them critical and analytical thinking, observation and inquiry, the search for a comprehensive view of the univers, and an interest in change), but he may be right (and the book is simply too short to make that argument in a thorough manner. ( )
  herdingbats | Mar 8, 2006 |
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The Greeks invented history as a literary genre in the fifth century B.C. The first historians owed much to Homer and adopted his vivid and direct style in narrating historical events. Yet, despite the influence of Homer the birth of history was basically a reaction against mythical accounts of the past. Homer wrote about war and travel in foreign lands, in the distant and mythical past. In contrast, the Greek historians of the fifth century wrote about contemporary or very recent events, where eye witnesses could be interviewed and facts checked. The Greek Historians follows the development of history from Herodotus, via Thucydides, Xenophon and Polybius, until the Hellenistic age. It introduces the individual writers and their topics, yet it also outlines their attitudes to historiography and their criticisms of each other. Such themes as the uses and value of truth and causation are traced, as well as the growing constraints on free speech under Hellenistic monarchs and the Romans. Written in an accessible and captivating manner, with suggestions for further reading, this book serves as a lucid introduction to Greek historians and writing of history.

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