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Ancient Historiography

4. History and Rhetoric

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In this module, we think about the connection between historical writing and rhetoric in the ancient world, focusing in particular on: (i) why Greek and Roman historical writing contains so many speeches; (ii) the idea of history as a semi-dramatic genre that was ‘performed’ rather than read; (iii) the difference between the speeches in Herodotus and those in Thucydides; (iv) the difference between what Thucydides says he will do with his speeches and what he actually does; (v) the influence of rhetoric more generally on historical writing, and the issues this represents when using these writers are historical sources; (vi) the importance of Dionysius of Halicarnassus as an individual who was both a historian and a rhetorician; and (vii) the ways in modern assumptions about the nature of rhetoric (i.e. as something tricky, untrustworthy) impact our engagement with rhetoric in ancient historiography.


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).

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APA style

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

MLA style

Fox, M. "Ancient Historiography – History and Rhetoric." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Oct 2020,

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