Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus*

  • Marek Węcowski (a1)
Abstract

The paper focuses on Herodotus' authorial self-representation, and on the problem of the intellectual tradition and genre(s) behind the Histories. The main assumption is that the opening sections of the work are a natural place to present its subject and principles to the public. Despite and beyond the notoriously loose grammatical structure of the first sentence, this paper offers a formal analysis of the whole ‘extended preface’ (incipit through 1.5.4), a carefully organized large-scale ‘pedimental composition’. A detailed examination of this structure yields the following results: (1) the stories about the abductions of women form an ironic attack against a peculiar model of causality of some contemporary Greek poets and writers, whose pragmatic outlook deprives the world of its ethico-religious dimension. (2) Conversely, Herodotus himself propounds a symbolic view of the world and seeks a monistic principle encompassing the past and the whole range of human experience. He ultimately finds it in the idea of the ‘cycle of human affairs’. This idea is the carefully stated subject of the Histories. (3) Although he belongs to the agonistic and display-oriented intellectual world of the sophistic era, Herodotus poses as a ‘sage’ capable of penetrating the whole variety of ‘all things’. Thus, he refers his reader to the tradition of wisdom literature. (4) Not unlike Thucydides, Herodotus' research into the greatest military conflict thus far forms in his view the best possible paradigmatic diagnosis of the human condition – much better than that of his fellow wise men (poets, philosophers, etc.) because based on the firm ground of verifiable historical data. (5) Although Herodotus is intent upon seeing the world from the standpoint of a single organizing principle, one of the most salient features of the Histories is the notion of the ‘marvellous’ (thômaston), which clearly elicits the pragmatic or factual attitude of the thinkers he dislikes. Many problems we experience when interpreting this author are due to the tension between the two attitudes. (6) This inherent breach in Herodotus' mind should be seen as a result not of a development or evolution of his work and thought, but of the contemporary debate between two diametrically opposed types of knowledge, viz. between the exponents of polymathiê, or Vielwisserei, and those of sophiê, or ‘wisdom’. Herodotus' contemporaries active in the field of arkhaiologia (including mythography, genealogy, etc.) and periêgêsis (geography, ethnography, etc.) were widely considered ‘polymaths’. Herodotus' ambition to apply the monistic (and symbolic) bent of wisdom literature to the subject-matter dominated thus far by the ‘pluralistic’ (and pragmatic) way of thinking was at least partly responsible for this discontinuity in his thought, but also accounts for the originality of the Histories.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus*
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Asheri, D. (1991) Erodoto. Le Storie 1, ed. Asheri, D. and Antelami, V. (3rd edn, Milan)
Bakker, E.J. (2002) ‘The making of history: Herodotus' historiēs apodexis’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 332
Bakker, E.J., de Jong, I.J.F. and Van Wees, H. (eds) (2002) Brill's Companion to Herodotus (Leiden, Boston and Cologne)
Berlin, I. (1966) The Hedgehog and the Fox. An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (2nd edn, New York)
Bertelli, L. (2001) ‘Hecataeus: from genealogy to historiography’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 6794
Boedeker, D. (2000) ‘Herodotus's genre(s)’, in Depew, M. and Obbink, D. (eds), Matrices of Genre. Authors, Canons, and Society (Cambridge, MA and London) 97114
Boedeker, D. and Peradotto, J. (eds) (1987) Herodotus and the Invention of History (Arethusa 20.1–2)
Bornitz, H.-F. (1968) Herodot-Studien. Beiträge zur Verständnis der Einheit des Geschichtswerks (Berlin)
Bowie, A.M. (1993) ‘Homer, Herodotus and the ‘beginnings' of Thucydides' History’, in Jocelyn, H.D. and Hurt, H. (eds), Tria Lustra. Essays and Notes Presented to John Pinsent … (Liverpool) 141–7
Bravo, B. (2000) ‘Pseudo-Herodotus and Pseudo-Thucydides on Scythia, Thrace and the regions “beyond”’, ASNP 5.1/4, 21112
Bravo, B. (2001) ‘Un frammento della Piccola Iliade (P. Oxy. 2510), lo stile narrativo tardo-arcaico, i racconti su Achille immortale’, QUCC 61, 49114
Cartledge, P. (2001) Spartan Reflexions (London)
Cobet, J. (1971) Herodots Exkurse und die Frage der Einheit seines Werkes (Historia Einzelschrift 17, Wiesbaden)
Cobet, J. (2002) ‘The organization of time in the Histories’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 387412
Corcella, A. (1984) Erodoto e l'analogia (Palermo)
Darbo-Peschanski, C. (1987) Le discours du particulier. Essai sur l'enquête hérodotéenne (Paris)
Dewald, C. (1999) ‘The figured stage: focalizing the initial narratives of Herodotus and Thucydides’, in Falkner, T.M., Felson, N., Konstan, D. (eds), Contextualizing Classics. Essays in Honor of John J. Peradotto (Lanham) 221–52
Dorati, M. (2000) Le Storie di Erodoto: Etnografia e racconto (Pisa and Rome)
Drews, R. (1973) The Greek Accounts of Eastern History (Washington, DC and Cambridge, MA)
Drexler, H. (1972) Herodot-Studien (Hildesheim and New York)
Erbse, H. (1956) ‘Der erste Satz im Werke Herodots’, in Festschrift Bruno Snell … (Munich) 209–22
Erbse, H. (1992) Studien zum Verständnis Herodots (Berlin and New York)
Fehling, D. (1975) ‘Zur Funktion und Formengeschichte des Proömiums in der älteren griechischen Prosa’, in ΔΩΡΗΜΑ. Hans Diller zum 70. Geburtstag … (Athens) 6175
Fehling, D. (1989) Herodotus and his ‘Sources’. Citation, Invention and Narrative Art (trans. Howie, J.G.) (Leeds)
Fornara, C.W. (1971) Herodotus. An Interpretative Essay (Oxford)
Fowler, R.L. (1996) ‘Herodotos and his contemporaries’, JHS 116, 6287
Fowler, R.L. (2001) ‘Early Historiē and literacy’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 95115
Fowler, R.L. (2003), ‘Herodotos and Athens’, in Derow, P. and Parker, R. (eds), Herodotus and his World. Essays from a Conference in Memory of George Forrest (Oxford) 305–18
Fritz, K. von (1967) Die griechische Geschichtsschreibung 1.1–2: Von den Anfängen bis Thukydides (Berlin)
Gladigow, B. (1965) Sophia und Kosmos. Untersuchungen zur Frühgeschichte von σοφός und σοφίή (Hildesheim)
Guthrie, W.K.C. (19621969) A History of Greek Philosophy (6 vols, Cambridge)
Harrison, T. (2000) Divinity and History. The Religion of Herodotus (Oxford)
Hartog, F. (1991) Le miroir d'Hérodote. Essai sur la représentation de l'autre (2nd edn, Paris)
Hommel, H. (1981) ‘Herodots Einleitungssatz: ein Schlüssel zur Analyse des Gesamtwerks?’, in Kurz et al. (eds) (1981) 271–87
Hornblower, S. (1996) A Commentary on Thucydides 2: Books IV–V.24 (Oxford)
Howald, E. (1944) Vom Geist antiker Geschichtsschreibung (Munich and Berlin)
Huber, L. (1965) ‘Herodots Homerverständnis’, in Flashar, H. and Gaiser, K. (eds), Synusia. Festgabe für Wolfgang Schadewaldt (Pfullingen) 2952
Hunter, V. (1982) Past and Process in Herodotus and Thucydides (Princeton)
Immerwahr, H.R. (1966) Form and Thought in Herodotus (Cleveland, OH)
Jacoby, F. (1912) ‘Hekataios’, RE 7.2 666769
Jacoby, F. (1913) ‘Herodotos’, RE Suppl. 2. 205520
Jacoby, F. (1949) Atthis. The Local Chronicles of Ancient Athens (Oxford)
Krischer, T. (1965) ‘Herodots Prooimion’, Hermes 93, 159–67
Kurz, G., Müller, D. and Nicolai, W. (eds) (1981) Gnomosyne … Festschrift für Walter Marg zum 70. Geburtstag (Munich)
Lateiner, D. (1986) ‘The empirical element in the methods of early Greek medical writers and Herodotus: a shared epistemological response’, Antichthon 20, 120
Lateiner, D. (1989) The Historical Method of Herodotus (Toronto)
Lewis, D.M. (1985) ‘Persians in Herodotus’, in The Greek Historians: Literature and History. Papers Presented to A.E. Raubitschek (Saratoga, CA) 101–17
Lloyd, G.E.R. (1987) The Revolutions of Wisdom. Studies in Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science (Berkeley)
Luraghi, N. (2001), ‘Local knowledge in Herodotus' Histories’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 138–60
Luraghi, N. (ed.) (2001) The Historian's Craft in the Age of Herodotus (Oxford)
Marg, W. (ed.) (1962) Herodot. Eine Auswahl aus der neueren Forschung (Darmstadt)
Marincola, J. (1997) Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (Cambridge)
Millender, E. (1999) ‘Athenian ideology and the empowered Spartan woman’, in Hodkinson, S. and Powell, A. (eds), Sparta. New Perspectives (London) 355–91
Moles, J.L. (1993) ‘Truth and untruth in Herodotus and Thucydides’, in Gill, C. and Wiseman, T.P. (eds), Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (Exeter) 88121
Moles, J.L. (1996) ‘Herodotus warns the Athenians’, in Cairns, F. and Heath, M. (eds), Roman Poetry and Prose, Greek Poetry, Etymology, Historiography (Leeds) 259–84
Moles, J.L. (2002) ‘Herodotus and Athens’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 3352
Müller, D. (1981) ‘Herodot – Vater des Empirismus? Mensch und Erkenntnis im Denken Herodots’, in Kurz et al. (eds) (1981) 299318
Munson, R.V. (2001) Telling Wonders. Ethnographic and Political Discourse in the Work of Herodotus (Ann Arbor)
Murray, O. (2001) ‘Herodotus and oral history’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 1644
Myres, J.L. (1953) Herodotus. Father of History (Oxford)
Nagy, G. (1987) ‘Herodotus the logios’, in Boedeker and Peradotto (eds) (1987) 175–84
Nagy, G. (1990) Pindar's Homer. The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past (Baltimore and London)
Nestle, W. (1940) Vom Mythos zum Logos (Stuttgart)
Pagel, K.-A. (1927) Die Bedeutung des aitiologischen Momentes für Herodots Geschichtsschreibung (Borna and Leipzig)
Pelliccia, H. (1992) ‘Sappho 16, Gorgias' Helen, and the preface to Herodotus' Histories’, YCS 29, 6384
Pelling, C.B.R. (1991) ‘Thucydides' Archidamus and Herodotus' Artabanus’, in Flower, M.A. and Toher, M. (eds), Georgica. Greek Studies in Honour of George Cawkwell (London) 120–42
Pelling, C.B.R. (2000) Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London and New York)
Pohlenz, M. (1937) Herodot. Der erste Geschichtschreiber des Abendlandes (Leipzig and Berlin)
Porciani, L. (1997) La forma proemiale. Storiografia e pubblico nel mondo antico (Pisa)
Raaflaub, K.A. (1987) ‘Herodotus, political thought, and the meaning of history’, in Boedeker and Peradotto (eds) (1987) 221–48
Raaflaub, K.A. (2002) ‘Philosophy, science, politics: Herodotus and the intellectual trends of his time’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 149–86
Rösler, W. (2002) ‘The Histories and Writing’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 7994
Romilly, J. de (1975) ‘Cycles et cercles chez les auteurs grecs de l'époque classique’, in Bingen, J., Cambier, G. and Nachtergael, G. (eds), Le monde grec … Hommages à Claire Préaux (Brussels) 140–52
Schadewaldt, W. (1962) ‘Das Religiös-humane als Grundlage der geschichtlichen Obiektivität bei Herodot’, in Marg (ed.) (1962) 185201
Shrimpton, G.S. (1997) History and Memory in Ancient Greece (Montreal and Kingston)
Snell, B. (1924) Die Ausdrücke für den Begriff des Wissens in der vorplatonischen Philosophie (σοφία, γνώμη, σύνεσις, ἱστορία, μάθημα, ἐπιστήμη) (Berlin)
Strasburger, H. (1972) Homer und die Geschichtsschreibung (Heidelberg)
Thomas, R. (2000) Herodotus in Context. Ethnography, Science and the Art of Persuasion (Cambridge)
Thomas, R. (2001) ‘Herodotus' Histories and the floating gap’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 198210.
Vannicelli, P. (2001) ‘Herodotus' Egypt and the foundation of universal history’, in Luraghi (ed.) (2001) 211–40
Van Wees, H. (2002) ‘Herodotus and the past’, in Bakker et al. (eds) (2002) 321–49
West, S.R. (2002) Demythologisation in Herodotus (Xenia Toruniensia 6, Toruń)
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Hellenic Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4269
  • EISSN: 2041-4099
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-hellenic-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 314 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.