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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

Chapter:
(p.241) 12 Stock Situations, Topoi and the Greekness of Greek Historiography
Source:
Defining Greek Narrative
Author(s):

Lisa Irene Hau

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680108.003.0012

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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