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Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography, by Giovanni Parmeggiani, editor

Washington: Center for Hellenic Studies / Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. vi, 330. Notes, indices. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 067442834X.

Forgotten Historians of the “Golden Age”

Seeking to counter the prevailing impression that during the centuries following Thucydides (c. 460-c. 400 BC), the craft of history fared poorly in the Greek world not reviving until Polybius (c. 200-c. 118 BC), Prof. Parmeggiani (Ferrara) has collected a dozen essays by himself and other specialists, on the nature and evolution of historiography in the period. The essays deal with many aspects of this impression, one arguably rooted in the fact that not much of what was written survives, aside from Xenophon (c. 430-354 BC). Despite that, as Parmeggiani notes, that there are numerous fragments preserved by other writers, in citations or excerpts, as examples of style or grammatical usage, and occasionally even as asides in other works, and these can offer important insights into the development of historiography in the period.

The essays address various aspects of the quality of historical writing during these centuries. Several discuss the nature of documents and inscriptions in the period, and their us by various historians. Other issues of methodology, techniques, and analytical approaches, are examined, helping to refute the idea that in this period historians view proper history as secondary to rhetorical fireworks. There are also essays on how Greek views on the history of Persia changed over the period, and even on the nature of local history, which appears to have been a popular genre.

A volume in the series “Hellenic Studies”, Between Thucydides and Polybius will be of particular value for those doing serious work in Greek history in the ages covered, and for students of historiography.


Note: Between Thucydides and Polybius is also available in e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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