Tragedies of war in Duris and Phylarchus: social memory and experiential history

Hau, L. (2020) Tragedies of war in Duris and Phylarchus: social memory and experiential history. In: Klooster, J. and Kuin, I. N. I. (eds.) After the Crisis: Remembrance, Re-anchoring and Recovery in Ancient Greece and Rome. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 49-64. ISBN 9781350128552

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Polybius’ criticism of his historiographical predecessor Phylarchus for ‘writing like a tragic playwright’ has given rise to the theory that there was a branch of Hellenistic history writing which deliberately fused tragedy and history, perhaps under the influence of Aristotle’s dictum that tragedy is more philosophical than history because it deals (more) with universals whereas historiography deals (more) with particulars. Although the theory that there was an actual Peripatetic school of ‘tragic historiography’ no longer holds sway, most scholars still operate with a split between ‘serious’ or ‘sober’ Hellenistic historiography as written by Polybius and ‘tragic’ or ‘sensationalist’ Hellenistic historiography as written by Phylarchus and others whose works are now largely lost. This paper aims to take so-called tragic historiography seriously and examine its possible purpose(s) and justification. By a study of the fragments of Phylarchus, Duris of Samos, and Agatharchides of Cnidus it emerges that the ‘tragic’ historians aimed at arousing the reader’s pity through the use of literary enargeia for the twin purposes of honouring the memory of the victims of atrocities and teaching the reader not to commit such atrocities himself. It is important to remember that atrocities such as sackings of cities were a fact of life at the time Phylarchus, Duris, and Agatharchides were writing, and their intended readership will have included potential victims, perpetrators, and bystanders alike. A third purpose was probably to make sure the ugly truth (as they considered it, even if it was often based on cultural memory rather than fact) became known: Phylarchus seems to have written in conscious opposition to Aratus of Sicyon on the sack of Mantinea, and Duris was writing the anti-Athenian version of the quelling of the Samian Revolt.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Tragic history, social memory, experiential history, Duris, Phylarchus, Agatharchides, Polybius.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hau, Dr Lisa Irene
Authors: Hau, L.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Classics
Publisher:Bloomsbury Academic
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