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Nova tellus

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3058

Resumen

RAAFLAUB, Kurt A.. Inventing a New Genre: Herodotus, Thucydides and the Challenge of Writing Large-Scale Prose History. Nova tellus [online]. 2013, vol.31, n.1, pp.35-67. ISSN 0185-3058.

Interest in the past (whether historical or mythical) is as old as Greek literature. Poetry (epic, elegy, and tragedy) dramatized past events. Among prose authors, Hecataeus set an early standard, but his works with historical content were shorter and simpler than those of his successors. Thus, it was Herodotus who wrote the first large-scale and complex history of an important historical event as “a multi-subjective, contingency-oriented account” (Christian Meier). Such work was soon to be followed by Thucydides. Although the latter eventually knew Herodotus’ work, he may have encountered it only after he had started to write his own. The challenges these authors faced in creating, establishing, and legitimizing a new genre were formidable. Although they found a distant predecessor in the Epics, they essentially entered uncharted territory. Therefore, they had to figure out how to organize their material, present their narrative, and create their own audiences. In a deeply fragmented world with conflicting traditions and memories, they chose to write from a panhellenic (or even larger) perspective. Although differing in age and background, they were contemporaries, participating in the competitive environment and vibrant intellectual culture of their time. One might expect, therefore, that despite their differences in approach, methodology, style, and world view, they might also share some of the solutions to the challenges they both faced. Thus, this paper will discuss some of the similar techniques the two authors developed to make their histories relevant, interesting, and meaningful to their readers. Some of these techniques (for instance, the combination of narrative and speeches) they borrowed from the Epics. Others were new and highly original devices to structure the narrative, insert pointers alerting the readers to important aspects, involve them in the narrated action, or draw out patterns that engaged the readers in a dynamic interaction between past and present.

Palabras llave : classical historiography; Herodotus; Thucydides; narrative strategies.

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