Introduction: Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus’ Histories
This introductory chapter focuses on myth and its multiple relationships with the concepts of truth and narrative, both within Herodotus' Histories and between the work and its context. First, it discusses the problematic reception in modern history of the material deemed mythical in Herodotus' work, and offers suggestions towards a definition that makes myth a workable concept specifically in relation to the Histories. Next, the vexed question of time and knowledge is addressed and related to the debate about Herodotus' ideas about a spatium mythicum opposed to, or rather continuing into, a spatium historicum. Debating this question raises issues of authority and demands reflection upon Herodotus' historiographical aspirations in recounting or adapting material deemed mythical. The historical context of myth is then considered, as well as its particular capacity to exercise a powerful influence upon the events that Herodotus narrates. Finally, attention is paid to the literary tradition that schooled and inspired Herodotus, as it presented itself in the shape of epic, lyric, and dramatic poetry as well as orally transmitted stories.
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