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Polis Histories, Collective Memories and the Greek World


  • Date Published: June 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316644737

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About the Authors
  • Greek 'local histories', better called polis and island histories, have usually been seen as the poor relation of mainstream 'great' Greek historiography, and yet they were demonstrably popular and extremely numerous from the late Classical period into the Hellenistic. The extensive fragments and testimonia were collected by Felix Jacoby and have been supplemented since with recent finds and inscriptions. Yet while the Athenian histories have received considerable attention, those of other cities have not: this is the first book to consider the polis and island histories as a whole, and as an important cultural and political phenomenon. It challenges the common label of 'antiquarianism' and argues that their role in helping to create 'imagined communities' must be seen partly as a response to fragile and changing status in a changing and expanding Greek world. Important themes are discussed alongside case studies of particular places (including Samos, Miletus, Erythrai, Megara, Athens).

    • A major re-assessment of the whole phenomenon of polis and island histories and the abundant but fragmentary and difficult evidence for them
    • Challenges the description of 'antiquarian' and emphasises instead the histories' central role in creating political and cultural identity in a changing Greek world
    • Relates these 'local histories' to the great, canonical historians like Herodotus, Thucydides, and Polybius and expands our view of the depth and sophistication of Greek history-writing
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… a vital addition to the canon of ancient Greek historical prose and essential reading for all scholars.' J. Tucci, Choice

    'An important read for those studying Classical Antiquity, this may also be of interest to those interested in military history, for the insights it gives into how usually suspect works such as local histories can be used with profit.' Albert Nofi, The NYMAS Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316644737
    • length: 502 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 150 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.72kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. What are polis histories? What are local histories? Popular history and its audiences
    2. Tales for the telling: 'τὸ μυθῶδες'
    3. Ethnography for the Greeks? The polis as a new subject for historiography
    4. Fostering the community: accumulative historiography
    5. Origins, foundations and ethnicity: Greeks and non-Greeks
    6. Saving the city: political history or paradoxa? Miletus and Lesbos
    7. Polis in flux: dislocation and disenfranchisement in Samos
    8. Athenian polis histories
    9. The Aristotelian politeiai and local histories
    10. Polis and island histories and the late Classical and Hellenistic world: a new Hellenism?

  • Author

    Rosalind Thomas, University of Oxford
    Rosalind Thomas is Professor of Greek History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Balliol College. Her publications include Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (Cambridge, 1989), Literacy and Orality in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 1992), and Herodotus in Context (Cambridge, 2000).

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