Truth and History in the Ancient World: Pluralising the Past

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Lisa Hau, Ian Ruffell
Routledge, Nov 3, 2016 - History - 288 pages
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This collection of essays investigates histories in the ancient world and the extent to which the producers and consumers of those histories believed them to be true. Ancient Greek historiographers repeatedly stressed the importance of truth to history; yet they also purported to believe in myth, distorted facts for nationalistic or moralizing purposes, and omitted events that modern audiences might consider crucial to a truthful account of the past. Truth and History in the Ancient World explores a pluralistic concept of truth – one in which different versions of the same historical event can all be true – or different kinds of truths and modes of belief are contingent on culture.

Beginning with comparisons between historiography and aspects of belief in Greek tragedy, chapters include discussions of historiography through the works of Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ktesias, as well as Hellenistic and later historiography, material culture in Vitruvius, and Lucian’s satire. Rather than investigate whether historiography incorporates elements of poetic, rhetorical, or narrative techniques to shape historical accounts, or whether cultural memory is flexible or manipulated, this volume examines pluralities of truth and belief within the ancient world – and consequences for our understanding of culture, ancient or otherwise.


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Tragedy and Fictionality
Seventeen Types of Ambiguity in Euripides Helen
The Myth of Oedipus
Fictional Truth and Factual Truth in Herodotus
On the Use of Untrue Stories in Herodotus
Intertextuality and Plural Truths in Xenophons Historical
Poet Novelist or Historian?
Narrative and Historical
The Twin Aims of the Hellenistic
Truth and Fiction

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About the author (2016)

Lisa Irene Hau is Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow, UK. She has published articles on Greek historiography, moralising and narrative technique, and she is working on a book on moral didacticism in Greek historiography. She is co-editor of Beyond the Battlefields: New Perspectives on Warfare and Society in the Graeco-Roman World (2008).

Ian Ruffell is Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow, UK. He is author of Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy: the Art of the Impossible (2011) and Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (2012).

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