Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

19. Historical Consciousness and the 'Aitiology' in Greece

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Rosalind Thomas [+-]
University of Oxford
Rosalind Thomas is Professor of Greek History in the University of Oxford, and Dyson-Macgregor Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History, Balliol College. Her research interests include ancient literacy, oral tradition and orality, performance culture, Greek historiography, and ‘local history’ and the polis. Her books include Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (1989), Orality and Literacy in Ancient Greece (1992), and Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, science and the art of persuasion (2000). A book on ‘local histories’, Polis histories, Collective Memories and the Greek World, is forthcoming.

Description

This chapter examines the phenomenon of ‘aetiology’ in Greek formal historiography, particularly Herodotus, and in the more popular manifestations of historical consciousness to be found in various polis and island histories (‘local histories’), arguing that these have roots in local popular and cultic explanations. Though aitia and the discussion of ‘causes’ in these contexts are often taken to be a particularly Hellenistic and learned interest, they are very common in Herodotus and in the fragments of local histories which must relate to oral traditions – and they are often highly entertaining. The author examines whether there are differences of attitude and approach between Herodotus and the aitia of local histories, as well as the relation of these aitia to the wider and more sophisticated search for cause and causation in Greek historiography. These aetiologies also raise questions about the relation of present to past, the sense of continuity of custom, and about the invention of tradition.

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Citation

Thomas, Rosalind. 19. Historical Consciousness and the 'Aitiology' in Greece. Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 279-292 Jun 2019. ISBN 9781800500266 . https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=33735. Date accessed: 25 Sep 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.33735. Jun 2019

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