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Three Great Greek Historians

John David Lewis

Presented at: OCON 2005

Date: Jul 02, 2005

Men have always been concerned with the past, often to maintain their traditions, to venerate their gods or to remember the deeds of their rulers. But the Greeks were the first to write history systematically. This course will begin by describing how the ancients first approached historical writing, in the genres of genealogy, mythography, chronography and "local history." The next three classes turn to the historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Polybius, who organized their treatises around a central integrating principle. Their explanations for why events happened established a causal view of history. The omnipresence of customs and laws in Herodotus, the nature of human nature in Thucydides and the power of virtue and of constitutions in Polybius constitute the themes of their histories and the essence of their historical principles. (Students should read the Penguin editions of Herodotus's Histories, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War and Polybius's Rise of the Roman Empire.)


Parts: 4

Handout: none