The Helen <i>Logos</i> and Herodotus’ Fingerprint

Irene de Jong

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
The Helen Logos and Herodotus’ Fingerprint

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Herodotus' discussion of the Trojan War in Histories 2.112–20 consists mainly of two strands: a historiographical evaluation of his sources, Homer and the Egyptian priests (116–17, 120), and the presentation of an alternative version (Helen never went to Troy but stayed in Egypt), as heard from the Egyptians (113–16, 118–19). Previous scholarship has focused on Herodotus' historiographical exercise (Neville 1977) and on determining the possible Greek sources for his alternative story (Lloyd 1993: 46–8). This chapter examines closely the alternative story itself: what are the typical Herodotean themes, techniques, and story-patterns? Establishing such links with the rest of the Histories leads to the conclusion that, notwithstanding the existence of Greek sources and Herodotus' own mention of an Egyptian source, the story is in the end mainly the product of Herodotus himself. This reading shows that, though for Herodotus ‘myth’ or the time of heroes may be distinct from ‘what is called the human age’ (3.122), it is not a completely separate category: it is, at least in this case, open to historiographical inquiry and connected with the present via a chain of information, and it displays the same patterns and motifs as elsewhere in the Histories.

Keywords: Herodotus and myth; historiographical method; trojan war; Helen logos; narrative art; Herodotus and Egypt; story-patterns; repetition

Chapter.  7006 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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