The Art of Biography in Antiquity

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 5, 2012 - History - 496 pages
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"Memoir, encomium, romance In diesem Sinne ist der ideale, ja der postexistente Sokrates der reale, und der Sokrates samt seiner Xanthippe, den etwa die photographis-che Kleinkunst zeigen konnte, ist bedeutungslos, jaim hoheren Sinne unwirklich. Adolf von Harnack 1.1 glimpses of a prehistory The single most important force for the emergence of Greek biography in the fourth century BC, it has been convincingly argued, was the personal and historical impact of the figure of Socrates, as reconstructed or invented by the Socratic writers.1 But the one individual writer -- the creative mind -- to whom Greek biography owes most is no doubt Xenophon of Athens (ca. 430--ca. 354 bc), who wrote not only a memoir of Socrates, but also a prose encomium of the Spartan king Agesilaus and a romantic Life of the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great.2 Each of his three works displays a distinct biographical strategy: the privileged viewpoint at work in the Memorabilia, the novel literary structure of the Agesilaus, and the imaginative mixture of fact and fiction in the Cyropaedia. Xenophon accordingly provides three different literary models for future life-writers to merge and develop. Now, interest in the character, acts, and lifespan of an important individual was of course not unknown in Greek society before the fourth century. Speculation about the identity of Homer, his birthplace, travels, and death, began early, as the many references show that we find scattered in poetry, drama, and early prose. The corresponding legends of Hesiod's life had a starting-point in first person statements in his own poems, those of Archilochus perhaps also in local tradition on his native island of Paros. Solon and Simonides are further, not so distant, figures who attracted early"--
  

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Contents

Prolegomena on biography modern and ancient
1
chapter 1 In the beginning was Xenophon
10
chapter 2 Hellenistic theory and practice
67
chapter 3 Popular heroes
99
chapter 4 The gospels
148
chapter 5 Political biography at Rome
187
chapter 6 Plutarch and his Parallel Lives
239
chapter 7 Ways of life
282
Epilogue on ancient and Christian biography
380
Further reading
390
Bibliography
417
Index
476
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About the author (2012)

Tomas Hägg is Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Bergen. His previous publications include The Novel in Antiquity (1983) and The Virgin and her Lover (2003).

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