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Greek and Roman Historians

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Greek and Roman Historians: Information and Misinformation, by Michael Grant


Information and Misinformation by Michael Grant

Rarely is there a book that correctly analyses the sources of knowledge of history. Much less examines the cultures and nuances present in the extant source material. To rid the average reader of the many myths that surround the study of ancient History, Michael Grant wrote "Greek and Roman Historians: Information and Misinformation" [see the book's listing at Barnes & Nobles site, here] as a concise study.

Michael Grant opens the book with the differences between Ancient and Modern Historians and the different prose disciplines of Antiquity. Some types of writing such as Epic poetry and history would overlap.

Historiography in antiquity dealt with important and noteworthy events, or at any rate those regarded as such, according to principles, interests, aims and tastes of great diversity... The different types of history in antiquity aimed at different readers, had different aims, were composed according to different principles.

Or the difference between to the two fathers of history: Herodotus and Thucydides, who counted their respective wars, the Second Persian War and the Peloponnesian War, as the greatest conflicts of the world. These were also events within their lifetimes, as opposed to the later Plutarch who wrote his Lives about events in the distant past using the biographical method.

Michael Grant's "Greek and Roman Historians" is well worth adding to any Ancient History library to the student who wants a firm grasp on how the histories came down to the modern world. It also delves into the ancient manner of understanding past events and lesser known historians of the Ancient World.

It also serves as a book while worth the time to read for anyone wanting understand the philosophy of historical scholarship and how to divine fact from fiction. Since as Herodotus the Father of history said:

Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι, τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται, τὰ τε ἄλλα καὶ δι' ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν ἀλλήλοισι.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, his Researches are set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements of both the Greeks and the Barbarians; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict.

And it is always good to understand how the "showing" works.