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Herodotus and his WorldEssays from a Conference in Memory of George Forrest$
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Peter Derow and Robert Parker

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253746

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253746.001.0001

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‘Tradition’ in Herodotus: The Foundation of Cyrene

‘Tradition’ in Herodotus: The Foundation of Cyrene

(p.153) 9 ‘Tradition’ in Herodotus: The Foundation of Cyrene
Herodotus and his World

Irad Malkin

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Herodotus' treatment of Cyrene. It considers the following questions: How much trust can we place in what Herodotus tells us about Cyrene's foundation? How useful is the very concept of ‘tradition’ when applied to his reports? It argues that major historical outline becomes part of the collective memory, applicable to various genres of social and religious behavior. Its framework-elements are not flexible and fluid. It is not useful to stuff too much in the porous basket of ‘tradition’, which is not an undifferentiated concept. Nor is it helpful to regard tradition as completely fluctuating with changing political circumstances, such as a ‘pro- or anti-Battiad mood’ in Cyrene at any given time. ‘The last person’ speaking to Herodotus was probably constrained by a collective memory that depends on constants outside the frame of oral narrative. An approach which sees no difference between narrative patterns of telling history and the framework constants around which and within which such patterns evolve throws out the proverbial baby with the bath water. It remains to judge, in each individual case, what is to be included in these framework constants and what chance these had of surviving. A more nuanced approach to the concept of tradition in Herodotus is presented.

Keywords:   Herodotus, Cyrene, collective memory, tradition

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