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Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus$

Emily Baragwanath and Mathieu de Bakker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199693979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693979.001.0001

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(p.v) Preface and Acknowledgements

(p.v) Preface and Acknowledgements

Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus
Oxford University Press

In this volume we take as our point of departure the one element on which all those who seek to define the meaning of ‘myth’ in Herodotus agree: its narrative character, which it shares with all works of the ancient historiographical tradition. Our present era has witnessed a kind of rebirth of the appreciation of narrative in historiography. This may be attested by the work of such writers as Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson, and Tom Holland, who present their investigations into the past through an engaging, fluent narrative that appeals to a wider audience. But the blurring of boundaries between ‘story’ and ‘history’ is visible in other genres too. A. S. Byatt in her Booker Prize winning novel Possession (1990) employed a historical Victorian setting as a stage for fictional characters, while the acknowledgements to academic and scientific institutions in Dan Brown’s mystic detective novels buttress the authority of an otherwise entirely fictional narrative. Herodotus himself can be considered the father of narrative historiography. To communicate his story of the past he made use of literary elements, often through patterns that were associated with tales known from the Greek legendary heritage. The aim of this volume is to study such elements in an attempt to contribute to the ongoing reconciliation of Herodotus the purveyor of fictional tales and employer of ‘mythic’ paradigms with the historian of the Persian Wars.

In September 2007 we invited an international group of scholars who were working in the fields of Greek historiography and mythology to Christ Church, Oxford, for a conference on Herodotus and Myth. The atmosphere of the conference was congenial and stimulating, and fresh approaches were measured up against the merits of more traditional ones. This volume brings together the papers of eleven of its participants, along with two further contributions solicited in a bid to enrich further the whole. Together, the papers bring out a variety of ways in which one can deal with the ‘mythical’ material of Herodotus’ Histories, and we hope that they open up ample possibilities for future theoretical, historical, and philological debate. Although the editors and contributors have tried to keep the (p.vi) contents of the volume up to date, it should be noted that it was first submitted to the publisher for consideration in 2009.

The conference would not have taken place, and the volume that grew from it would not have appeared, were it not for the generous intellectual, financial, and organizational support of many. First we would like to thank the participants of the conference for their numerous observations on individual papers. In particular, we thank the panel presiders Roger Brock and Robert Fowler, and Christopher Pelling, Thomas Harrison, and Tom Holland, for livening up the event with their contributions to the programme. Deborah Boedeker, Angus Bowie, and John Marincola provided us with sage early advice and with support in raising funds. Christ Church we thank for being such a gracious host of the conference. Audiences at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania helped us in sharpening our thoughts about the introduction, as did valuable observations made by members of the Amsterdam Hellenist Society, and by Sean Braswell, who read several versions of it. At various stages we received administrative and other support from Philippa Duffin, Eleni Kechagia, John Esposito, Saskia Willigers, and John Beeby. We also thank the anonymous reviewers of the OUP book proposal for their careful reading of the manuscript and useful observations, Hilary O’Shea and the rest of her superb team at OUP, our splendid copy-editor Hilary Walford, and our proofreader James Eaton. The department of Classics at UNC-Chapel Hill and its gracious Chair Cecil Wooten provided invaluable assistance with the final preparations for publication. Finally, we owe acknowledgement to the generous sponsors of our conference: the British Academy, the John Fell OUP Fund, the Christopher Tower Fund, the University of Oxford Classics Faculty Board, the Craven Committee, the Hellenic Society, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, and the Institute of Culture and History of the University of Amsterdam.

We should like to note that the order of our surnames as it appears on the volume’s title page and introduction was chosen for euphonic reasons and does not reflect an uneven workload.

E.B. and M. de B.

June 2012