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Ancient Historiography

2. Herodotus and Thucydides

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the earliest Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, focusing in particular on: (i) the contrast between the two historians, and their impact on subsequent historiography; (ii) Herodotus’ predecessors; (iii) the highly arresting way in which Herodotus begins his History; (iv) Herodotus’ birth-place on the edge of the Persian Empire and his (consequent?) willingness to engage with non-Greek accounts, and to explicitly name them as such (“This is what the Phoenicians say…”); (v) the boundary between myth and history in Herodotus; (vi) Herodotus’ interest in ethnography (the description of different peoples and cultures) alongside ‘history’ more narrowly defined, and the way the focus on these interests changes as one moved from the History; (vii) Herodotus’ ‘liberality’, his presentation of the evidence and invitation to the reader to make up their own minds; (viii) Thucydides’ approach to history in contrast to Herodotus’ – his repudiation of myth, his emphasis on reliable sources, his view on the ‘usefulness’ of history; and (ix) the influence of Thucydides and Herodotus in later historiography, particularly in the works of Diodorus Siculus and Polybius.


In this course, Professor Matthew Fox (University of Glasgow) provides a broad introduction the writing of history (or ‘historiography’) in the Greek and Roman world. In the first module, we think about some of the key issues when approaching ancient historical writing, including the idea of the purpose of history and the main differences between how history is written today and how it was written in the ancient world. After that, in the second module, we turn to the works of Herodotus and Thucydides, their similarities and differences, and the impact on later historiography. In the third module, we turn to the evolution of historical writing in the Roman world from Sallust to Tacitus, before moving on in the fourth module to consider the important of rhetoric in ancient historiography. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the presence of history in the poetry of the ancient world, including Homer, Virgil, Ovid and Lucan.


Matthew Fox is Professor of Classics at Glasgow University. His research focuses on ancient historical thinking, and on how both Romans and Greeks used history as a medium for reflection. His publications include Roman Historical Myths: the Regal Period in Augustan Literature (1996) and Cicero's Philosophy of History (2007).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Fox, M. (2020, October 26). Ancient Historiography - Herodotus and Thucydides [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Fox, M. "Ancient Historiography – Herodotus and Thucydides." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Oct 2020,