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Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Edited by Emily Baragwanath and Mathieu de Bakker

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693979.001.0001
Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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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. Each chapter in this book seeks to review, re-establish, and rehabilitate the origins, forms, and functions of the Histories' mythological elements. These chapters 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 organisational 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.

Keywords: Herodotus; mythological tales; historical research; histories; Plutarch; narrator

Book.  384 pages. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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Table of Contents

Myth and Legend in Herodotus’ First Book in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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Herodotus and the ‘Myth’ of the Trojan War in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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The Helen <i>Logos</i> and Herodotus’ Fingerprint in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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Herodotus on Melampus in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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Herodotus and the Heroic Age: The Case of Minos in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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Myth and Truth in Herodotus’ Cyrus Logos in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

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