Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (Approaching the Ancient World)
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First published in 1999. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
Phaeax in Alcibiades, while Nicias polarises events around Alcibiades and Nicias alone, and Phaeax is mentioned only in an afterword, ‘I am not unaware of Theophrastus’ version that it was Phaeax, not Nicias, who contended against Alcibiades…’ (Nic. 11.10). There is also a third mention at Aristides 7: there the point is that ostracism had always befallen men of distinction (the same point is made at Alc. 13.9 and Nic. 11.6–8), and understandably Nicias and Alcibiades are stressed there, not the
Rhetoric and history II If we are sceptical of privileging an actor’s own explanations, that is not, or not only, because we may doubt his or her sincerity. In extreme cases, we may accept that people’s accounts of their motives are sincere but inaccurate, that people do not describe their motives rightly even to themselves. ‘The West did not fight the Gulf War for freedom, whatever they said or thought, but for oil’; ‘Conservatives are committed to free enterprise not because they think it
reply makes other points too, concerning autonomy and arbitration; but the Megarian decree, it seems, was prominent in people’s minds. What can we infer from this? The absence of a detailed narrative suggests only that Thucydides did not think this explained much. Unlike Corcyra and Potidaea, this was a grievance and no more. We cannot conclude that the decree(s), or some of them, belong (say) early in the 430s, during the ‘dead’ period of the Pentekontaetia (i.e. the years towards the end which
could easily come up with an answer very like that given by the story in Theopompus. Indeed, we need not even call it ‘embellishment’, but might prefer something blander like ‘creative reconstruction’, for the story has something in common with those elegant ‘Poirots’ which modern scholars craft to explain a particular combination of evidence. And there is no reason for us to believe a word of it.38 Making comic sense This is so far very negative, but sometimes we can make progress: more often,
personal reading or hearing of Herodotus, then of course that would be an interesting piece of literary biography; but, given how few of the audience would have caught the hint, it would not tell us much about the way the play works. That pattern of popular historical explanation is what matters there, and this pattern then becomes one of the most historically interesting aspects of the scene. 156 Aristophanes’ Acharnians (425 BC) ‘One of’ the interesting aspects, but not the only one: