This collection of essays investigates histories in the ancient world and the extent to which the producers and consumers of those histories believed them to be true. Ancient Greek historiographers repeatedly stressed the importance of truth to history; yet they also purported to believe in myth, distorted facts for nationalistic or moralizing purposes, and omitted events that modern audiences might consider crucial to a truthful account of the past. Truth and History in the Ancient World explores a pluralistic concept of truth – one in which different versions of the same historical event can all be true – or different kinds of truths and modes of belief are contingent on culture.
Beginning with comparisons between historiography and aspects of belief in Greek tragedy, chapters include discussions of historiography through the works of Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ktesias, as well as Hellenistic and later historiography, material culture in Vitruvius, and Lucian’s satire. Rather than investigate whether historiography incorporates elements of poetic, rhetorical, or narrative techniques to shape historical accounts, or whether cultural memory is flexible or manipulated, this volume examines pluralities of truth and belief within the ancient world – and consequences for our understanding of culture, ancient or otherwise.
List of Contributors
Ian Ruffell and Lisa Irene Hau
2. The Challenging Abundance of the Past: Pluralising and Reducing in Pindar’s Victory Songs
Jan R. Stenger
3. Tragedy and Fictionality
4. Seventeen Types of Ambiguity in Euripides’ Helen
5. Multiple Ways to Access the Past: the Myth of Oedipus, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Herodotus' Histories
6. Fictional Truth and Factual Truth in Herodotus
7. Se non è vero: On the Use of Untrue Stories in Herodotus.
8. Intertextuality and Plural Truths in Xenophon’s Historical Narrative
9. Ctesias of Cnidus: Poet, Novelist or Historian?
10. The Aesthetics of Truth: Narrative and Historical Hermeneutics in Polybius' Histories
11. Truth and Moralising: the Twin Aims of the Hellenistic Historiographers
Lisa Irene Hau
12. Alexander and the Amazonian Queen: Truth and Fiction
13. Lucian on Truth and Lies in Ancient Historiography: the Theory and its Limits
"Different stories have always been told about the past, and ancient writers knew it. Could these stories all be true, or true in the same way? Did writers of history see truth in the same way as philosophers or poets or dramatists did, or as we do? Those are the questions that this collection of outstanding essays explores, and fundamental issues of fictionality, of genre, and of truth itself are illuminated along the way."
- Christopher Pelling, University of Oxford, UK
"The various contributions of this book on the status of reality and truth in history among the ancients demonstrate that there was not one possible approach, and that each literary and methodological genre proposed solutions that still question modern researchers."
- Antonio Gonzales, ISTA/Université de Franche-Comté (Besançon), France, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017