Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Scholars have long recognized that Herodotus wrote his Histories when literature was often researched, composed, and circulated by oral rather than written means. Like his contemporaries, Herodotus gave oral demonstrations of his expertise (in Greek, epideixeis) in widely diverse settings across Greece. Most modern scholarship, however, treats Herodotus’ Histories as fundamentally unrelated to these performances, assuming instead that, in the Histories, Herodotus wrote for a single, broad, and Panhellenic readership. My dissertation argues that significant portions of the Histories in fact follow Herodotus’ earlier oral performances closely—sometimes so closely that the original audience and historical context can be identified. In my dissertation, I analyze three Herodotean battle narratives (Plataea, Salamis, and Thermopylae) where anomalies in composition appear to reflect these narratives’ origins as oral epideixeis with specific original performance dates. In short, my proposed original performance dates match the compositional context of Greece in the mid-fifth century BCE better than the traditional ‘publication’ date two decades later. If we recognize that Herodotus’ text reflects widely differing historical contexts, not only can we place Herodotus more satisfactorily in the oral culture of fifth-century Greece, we can also see how closely Herodotus engaged with the regional politics of his time. My approach thus challenges entrenched assumptions about the composition of the Histories, significantly improving our current understanding of Herodotus’ personal bias, his historiographical method, and his intended audience.
Oliver, Ian Cody, "The Audiences of Herodotus: the Influence of Performance on the Histories" (2017). Classics Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 13.