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logographers


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(Gk. logographos),

as used by the contemporaries of Demosthenes (2), commonly means a speech‐writer for litigants in the courts, or else a writer of prose, as distinct from a poet. Modern practice, however, has followed Thucydides (2) in applying the term to the predecessors and contemporaries of Herodotus who were the pioneers of history‐writing. Early writers of narrative prose are called logopoioi, ‘tellers of tales’, by Herodotus. But like the early philosophers and natural scientists, those who claimed to offer a faithful account of human activities considered their task as an investigation (historia), as scientific rather than poetic. If we grudge the title of ‘historian’ to the predecessors of Herodotus, it is largely because they wrote of gods and heroes as well as of men, and some of them professed to offer a true version of mythology as well as of history.

No manuscripts of these authors have survived, but there are numerous references to them and occasional direct quotations in later Greek writers. Some later writers have a low opinion of their accuracy and accuse them of fabricating names and incidents; others stress their lack of critical judgement; all agree that they wrote in simple style and language. Many of them came from Ionian cities. Hecataeus of Miletus is a well‐attested historical figure, mentioned several times by Herodotus; he was active politically in Miletus as early as 500 bc, and much can be learnt from surviving fragments about the range and character of his literary work.

The work of the logographers may be classified under various heads:1. Mythographic treatises, which involved attempts to rationalize and systematize Greek mythology, and to trace the genealogies of families who claimed descent from a god or hero.2. Geographical works, describing the peoples and areas met with on a coasting voyage (see periploi) and the neighbouring peoples inland.3. Accounts of the customs and history of non‐Greek peoples. See barbarian.4. Local histories, esp. accounts of the Founding of Cities. See founders of cities.5. Chronological works, which might include tables based on lists (real or apocryphal) of kings, magistrates, priests, or priestesses. See time‐reckoning.Herodotus combines the various strains of the logographers' work, and was the first to provide a coherent history.

1. Mythographic treatises, which involved attempts to rationalize and systematize Greek mythology, and to trace the genealogies of families who claimed descent from a god or hero.

2. Geographical works, describing the peoples and areas met with on a coasting voyage (see periploi) and the neighbouring peoples inland.

3. Accounts of the customs and history of non‐Greek peoples. See barbarian.

4. Local histories, esp. accounts of the Founding of Cities. See founders of cities.

5. Chronological works, which might include tables based on lists (real or apocryphal) of kings, magistrates, priests, or priestesses. See time‐reckoning.

Subjects: Classical Studies — History of Law.


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