Monday, April 03, 2017

Ancient historians

Scholars of ancient intellectual history (and those of later times as well) sometimes think in terms of antithetical pairs, such as Plato vs. Aristotle (as seen in Raphael's famous fresco in the Vatican), as well as Homer vs. Vergil and Heracltus vs Parmenides. Among historians, the contrast is between Herodotus, ostensibly merely the retailer of fables and old wives' tales, and Thucydides, the relentless detector of the difference between truth and fiction. I have come to wonder about the validity of this contrast in my endeavor to detect and expose the noxious fabrications that have long circulated regarding same-sex behavior.

Nineteenth-century German historians like Creuzer and Droysen beatified Thucydides as the patron of their "scientific" approach.  This claim seems anachronistic since T.  did not have access to the equivalent of the troves of archival documents mined by his Germanic admirers.

Exceptionally, Hegel placed T. in the lowest rank of historians.  Writing about contemporary happenings,ghe Greek writer did not have the opportunity to see things in the perspective that distance affords.


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