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Defining Greek Narrative$
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Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680108

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680108.001.0001

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Stock Situations, Topoi and the Greekness of Greek Historiography

Stock Situations, Topoi and the Greekness of Greek Historiography

(p.241) 12 Stock Situations, Topoi and the Greekness of Greek Historiography
Defining Greek Narrative

Lisa Irene Hau

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter focuses on our surviving historiographic texts from the fifth to the first century BC : Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Diodorus of Sicily. Greek historiography dealt with a limited number of types of situations and within these situations was concerned with a limited number of themes. This observation leads to a preliminary typology of such stock events and their concomitant themes, or topoi. There are four other distinct characteristics of Greek historiography: interest in causation, didactic purpose (practical or moral), even-handedness in narrative treatment of opponents in conflict, and alternation between remote, omniscient narration – feigning non-narration – and involved, polemical first-person argumentation. Although none of these traits is in itself uniquely Greek, the specific combination of them seen in these five historiographers is.

Keywords:   Historiography, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Stock situation, Topoi, Causation, Omniscient narration

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