ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE
[From: Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]
[From a History of Prose in Greek Literature] - Prose writing developed much later than poetry. It first appeared when the world of myth and fantasy began to give way to the world of reason and reality. Prose was the vehicle for History, Philosophy, and Rhetoric.
History - The First prose appeared in history writing in Miletus, and the first historians were known as 'logographio' because their works marked the transition from the verse of epic poets to prose, avoiding mythological interpretations. These narratives were bald and uncritical records of local traditions relating to the remote or mythical past generally concerned with the legendary foundations of cities or the genealogies of gods and heroes. The outstanding logographoi were Cadmus of Miletus, Hecataeus of Miletus and Hellanicus of Mitylene. Hecataeus is the foremost of these of whose works a very few fragments have survived. He made a map of the world [Circuit of the Earth] which he accompanied with a description of the world in two books known as the Travels.
Herodotus [5th Century]. The 'Father of History' was born in Halicarnassus and travelled widely to many lands [Egypt, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, the country of the Scythians, etc.] and his travels make up the bulk of his history. His history was the product of what he himself could verify at first hand or what he had learned from others of the traditions of their countries. Herodotus himself clearly defines his sources. He believed to be reliable that information which came from his own experience. But in his work many racial customs and habits and mythological elements creep in. The Alexandrian grammarians divided his work into nine books, one for each of the Muses. The subject of the History is the struggle between Asia and Greece, dealing as it does with the Persian [p. 144] conquest of the neighbouring nations of Asia and Egypt culminating in the Persian Wars.
Herodotus differed in fact from the logographoi in that he recorded and investigated an important unity of historical events. But he was thoroughly unscientific in the matter of interpretation of events. His explanations do not rest on actual causes but on superhuman and supernatural phenomena. Herodotus associated events with Nemesis [or fate], the divine punishment of those who in their actions go contrary to justice. Nevertheless, despite his lack of rational intellect, despite his often superficial treatment of events, Herodotus rightly deserves the title of the father of history. His perseverance in not being satisfied with the fragmentary nature of his material, but uniting it as a great craftsman, even with ethnological and mythical elements, in order to give an overall picture of the war which he wished to record, laid the foundations of European historiography which was characterized by a similar methodology.
Thucydides. Born at Alimunda [the modern Alimos], round about 460 B.C. he had as his teachers Anaxagoras and the orator Antiphon, and was deeply influenced by the precepts of Gorgias and Prodicus. If Herodotus related the history of the Persian Wars, Thucydides was the one who was to describe in a most scientific and critical manner, the most tragic and disastrous war of ancient Greece, the Peloponnesian conflict. He began to collect and to collate his material from the very outbreak of the war. He relied upon verified and confirmed evidence and on his personal experiences of the events. Thucydides also used written sources [treaties, letters, and speeches] for his sources. A large part of his history was devoted to the speeches of the various actors in the tragedy. Typical is the Funeral Oration of Pericles delivered for the troops who had fallen in the first year of hostilities [Book II]. At all events, this oration, as well as all other speeches, were not recorded verbally as they had been delivered, but were re-written and presented in such a way that the scholar only with the greatest difficulty could distinguish the thoughts of Pericles from those of the historian himself. The Funeral Oration provided Thucydides with the vehicle by which he could sing the praises of the city and its democracy, and to record for posterity its greatness which was an ideal blend of freedom and the sense of social responsibility of the Athenian citizen.
The causes of the events in the History are not justified by the gods and superhuman forces, but are due to natural and human frailties and failures. In his hands, history had attained its full maturity, Thucydides died before completing his history. The record of events stops in the year 411 B.C. The Alexandrian grammarians divided his history into eight books [I-Introduction, II-20th Chapter,V;Archidamean War [431-421], and the 21st Chapter, V: 421-415. VI & VII: the Sicilian Expedition [415-412], and VIII: part of the Deceleian War.
Xeophon [434-355 B.C.] Born in Athens, he was a pupil of Socrates. He wrote historical, philosophical, political, and practical treatises and books, but as a historian he did not work rationally. Like Herodotus, he too interpreted many historical events through the eye of Nemesis or fate, and in his writings superstitions, oracles, and prophecies play an important part. Nevertheless, he has a gifted narrative style and writes in good Attic prose. His historical works include the Anabasis [7 Books], Cyropaedeia [8 Books], and Hellenica [7 Books which begin where Thucydides left off, and covers the period 411 to 362], and Agesilaos . [p. 145] [pp. 144-145]
[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]
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