An investigation of what a Herodotean inquirer can do, and what he should do
Textual Rivals studies some of the most debated issues in Herodotean scholarship. One such is Herodotus’ self-presentation: the conspicuousness of his authorial persona is one of the most remarkable features of his Histories. So frequently does he interject first-person comments into the narrative that Herodotus at times almost becomes a character within his own text.
Important issues are tied to Herodotus’ self-presentation. First is the narrator’s relationship to truth: to what extent does he expect readers to trust his narrative? While judgments regarding Herodotus’ overall veracity have often been damning, scholars have begun to concentrate on how Herodotus presents his truthfulness. Second is the precise genre Herodotus means to create with his work. Excluding the anachronistic term historian, exactly what would Herodotus have called himself, as author? Third is the presence of “self-referential” characters, whose actions often mirror Herodotus’ as narrator/researcher, in the Histories.
David Branscome’s investigative text points to the rival inquirers in Herodotus’ Histories as a key to unraveling these interpretive problems. The rival inquirers are self-referential characters Herodotus uses to further his authorial self-presentation. Through the contrast Herodotus draws between his own exacting standards as an inquirer and the often questionable standards of those rivals, Herodotus underlines just how truthful readers should find his own work.
Textual Rivals speaks to those interested in Greek history and historiography, narratology, and ethnography. Those in the growing ranks of Herodotus fans will find much to invite and intrigue.
David Branscome is Associate in Classics, Florida State University.