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Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus$
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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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Herodotus and the ‘Myth’ of the Trojan War

Herodotus and the ‘Myth’ of the Trojan War

(p.87) 2 Herodotus and the ‘Myth’ of the Trojan War
Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Suzanne Said

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the allusions in the Histories to what we nowadays call the ‘myth’ of the Trojan War. It first attempts to define its status: where should it be placed on Herodotus' scale of credibility, with muthoi undeserving of belief on the one end and plain historical facts on the other? Does Herodotus, in this respect, differentiate between a spatium mythicum and a spatium historicum? Next, it explores Herodotus' strategies in demythologizing the stories of the Trojan War and offers a suggestion about the deeper purpose behind his rationalizing agenda. It then addresses the role that excerpts of the Trojan War myth play in the rhetoric ascribed to Herodotus' characters, especially in the context of individual and collective propaganda. Finally, it investigates Herodotus' own rhetorical use of these mythical stories as an exemplum in a work that, in Herington's words, ‘stands exactly at the frontier where two great literary eras meet, the era [of] poetry and legend…and the era of prose, of history’. For as in archaic poetry or Attic tragedy, the myth of Troy reverberates throughout the work and helps us to understand the more recent past (the Persian Wars) as well as the present (the Peloponnesian War).

Keywords:   Trojan War, demythologization, rationalisation, character speech, myth as example, spatium mythicum, patium historicum, women

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