'One might rightly wonder' - marvelling in Polybios Histories

Hau, L. I. (2018) 'One might rightly wonder' - marvelling in Polybios Histories. In: Gerolemou, M. (ed.) Recognizing Miracles in Antiquity and Beyond. Series: Trends in classics supplementary volumes (53). De Gruyter: Berlin, pp. 63-84. ISBN 9783110530469 (doi: 10.1515/9783110563559-006)

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This paper investigates the use of θαῦμα (thauma) and its cognate verbs and adjectives in Polybios' Histories. It argues that this word group is used in four basic ways: 1. The expression 'I wonder at so-and-so's stupidity/absurdity/other undesirable quality' is used very frequently as a rhetorical opening of speeches, both the ones orginally delivered in Greek and those originally delivered in Latin. 2. Thauma and its adjectives are used to designate natural and ethnographical marvels, but only occasionally, and Polybios generally seems to associate these with a less serious and investigative type of historiography than his own since an investigation into causes will most often dispel the wonder. 3. In methodolog-ical passages Polybios posits his own historiographical project and its topic as a marvel, placing him in the tradition of historiographers who stress the greatness of their topic and achievement. 4. The most frequent use of thauma-words in the Histories is to designate human qualities – moral and intellectual – as marvels. The article concludes that Polybios redefines thauma and its cognates in order to further his own historiographical agenda: partly to demonstrate that it is human beings who make history happen, not supernatural powers, and partly to exhort the reader didactically to imitate marvellous human beings of the past in order to become marvellous himself. Polybios could only do this because the category of the marvellous had considerably inbuilt flexibility, but it was only worth doing because the marvellous was a powerful conceptual category which immediately signalled that its content was not just interesting, but also important, and worth remembering.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hau, Dr Lisa Irene
Authors: Hau, L. I.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics
Publisher:De Gruyter

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