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Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World$
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Christopher Gill and T.P. Wiseman

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780859893817

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780859893817.001.0001

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Truth and Untruth in Herodotus and Thucydides

Truth and Untruth in Herodotus and Thucydides

(p.88) Chapter Three Truth and Untruth in Herodotus and Thucydides
Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World

J.L. Moles

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the truth status of Greek historiography, especially its most famous exponents, Herodotus and Thucydides. Through a close reading of the prefaces of the two histories, it shows that both writers, especially Thucydides, while seeing themselves as the inheritors of the tradition of epic narrative, also define their project as a distinctively factual one. At the same time, both historians allow themselves room for creative invention, particularly in the speeches, whose partly fictional status Thucydides underlines. The chapter cites two clear cases, in Herodotus and Plutarch, where historians present as fact (though with some embarrassment) what is in fact clearly invention. It is suggested that it is misguided to think that we can separate fact from fiction surgically in Greek historiography and that we need to accept that both elements form the fusion that makes up the genre.

Keywords:   Fiction, Historiography, Prefaces, Rhetoric, Speeches, Truth, Untruth

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