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The Greeks and their Past
Poetry, Oratory and History in the Fifth Century BCE


  • Date Published: December 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107656284

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About the Authors
  • Ancient Greeks remembered their past before the rise of historiography and after it poetry and oratory continued to serve commemorative functions. This book explores the field of literary memory in the fifth century BCE, juxtaposing the works of Herodotus and Thucydides with samples from epinician poetry, elegy, tragedy and oratory. Various socio-political contexts and narrative forms lent themselves to the expression of diverse attitudes towards the past. At the same time, a common gravitational centre can be observed which is distinct from modern ideas of history. As well as presenting a broad overview on memory in various genres, Professor Grethlein sheds new light on the rise of Greek historiography. He views Herodotus and Thucydides against the background of memory in poetry and oratory and thereby elucidates the tension between tradition and continuity in which the shaping of historiography as a genre took place.

    • First study to examine the field of memory systematically across a wide range of literary genres from fifth-century-BCE Greece
    • Provides insights into the origins of historiography in ancient Greece
    • Shows how the ancient Greeks' attitudes to the past were distinct from those in modern history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Grethlein has written a remarkably broad, erudite, and often original study.' Victor Bers, American Journal of Philology

    'This is an ambitious, lucid, well-researched and well-organized book … [It] provides a stimulating argument and one based on much careful analysis of ancient texts and knowledge of the extensive relevant modern scholarship … One looks forward for more from Jonas Grethlein in the future on these and similar challenging topics.' Carolyn Dewald, Classical Journal

    '… a valuable read on Hellenic memory as ideological tool.' Donald Lateiner, The Historian

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107656284
    • length: 364 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Clio polytropos: Non-historiographical Media of Memory:
    2. Epinician poetry: Pindar, Olympian 2
    3. Elegy: the 'New Simonides' and the past in earlier elegies
    4. Tragedy: Aeschylus, Persae
    5. Epideictic oratory: Lysias, Epitaphios Logos
    6. Deliberative oratory: Andocides, De pace
    Part II. The Rise of Greek Historiography:
    7. Herodotus
    8. Thucydides
    9. Epilogue: historical fevers, ancient and modern
    Appendix: lengthy historical narratives in Tyrtaeus and Mimnermus?

  • Author

    Jonas Grethlein, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany
    Jonas Grethlein is Professor of Classics at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. He studied at Göttingen, Oxford and Freiburg before holding positions at Harvard and the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2006 he received the prestigious Heinz-Maier-Leibnitz award for junior scholars. In addition to numerous articles he has published Asyl und Athen. Die Konstruktion kollektiver Identität in der griechischen Tragödie (2003) and Das Geschichtsbild der Ilias. Eine Untersuchung des Geschichtsbildes der Ilias aus phänomenologischer und narratologischer Perspektive (2006) and edited (with A. Rengakos) Narratology and Interpretation: The Content of Narrative Form in Ancient Literature (forthcoming).

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