Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture: literary studies in the reception of the Histories


In a seminal article published a generation ago (CQ 22 [1972] 200-13), Oswyn Murray sought to vindicate Herodotus’ place in the intellectual history of the Hellenistic world, arguing that the Histories served an important role as a lens through which writers of the age could consolidate and interpret the new scientific, cultural, and geographic knowledge gained in the wake of Alexander’s campaigns (even Alexander’s admiral Nearchus, who surely understood firsthand the gulf between Herodotus’ depiction of India and his own experience of it, claimed to have seen the pelts of Herodotus’ fantastic, giant gold-digging ants); understanding the Hellenistic world therefore demands recognition of Herodotus’ importance to it. Murray’s concluding call for a more detailed study of Herodotus’ influence in the Hellenistic period has now been answered by P(riestley)’s book, which comprises five independent but intersecting studies of aspects of Herodotus’ place in Hellenistic literary culture, including not only historiography but also poetry.


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