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He’s Back!

April 20, 2012

Peter Green in The New Republic:

THERE IS AN ancient anecdote, probably apocryphal, according to which the adolescent Thucydides was reduced to tears by listening to Herodotus lecture. I have always suspected that his reaction was due not (as the anecdote clearly indicated) to admiring wonder, but rather to precocious intellectual irritation. At all events, he grew up to advance a conception of historical writing that might have been designed to denigrate the methods of his famous predecessor: rational, secular, restricted to the public business of diplomacy and war (and thus to those upper-class commanders and politicos whose exclusive business—pace Lysistrata—such matters were held to be), and ignoring the whole area of private life, women in particular. Until very recently, this clubbish, ultra-masculine view of historiogaphy held the field virtually unchallenged.

But then something happened. The feminist movement, among other things, bred some excellent ancient historians—of whom Jenny Roberts is one of the most distinguished—and they took a new and more critical look at the Thucydidean template. Ethnographers and comparative sociologists, who had always acquired comparatively slim pickings from Thucydides, suddenly realized that Herodotus, from their point of view, looked staggeringly modern. [More]
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