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Greek History Essay

826 words - 3 pages

Greek History

"In this book, the result of my inquiries into history, I hope to…preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own
and of the Asiatic peoples…." With this "mission statement" Herodotus introduces his Histories, the first recorded history text in the western world. Using fragments
of the past he reconstructs a picture of the whole; the objects of his researches included first-hand accounts and tales passed down through generations, physical
remains and artifacts, and his own intelligence and creativity. Using sources such as these (though he cites nothing), Herodotus describes the foundation of the Theran
colony of Cyrene, ca. 630 B.C.E.. In compiling this account, he may have used the colony's foundation decree. The facts given in this decree, which we know through
a fourth century B.C.E. inscription, agree with those given in the Histories. The authenticity of this decree is strong. The decree could not have been the only source
Herodotus consulted, for while certain details in the Histories agree with the foundation decree, Herodotus gives an account of Cyrene's founding containing much more
description.

Both accounts begin with Apollo's oracle at Delphi urging the Therans to found a new colony in Libya, on the coast of northern Africa. Already Herodotus' account
goes into much more detail than the inscription. The inscription tells only that, on the oracular advice, Thera sends Battos with colonists to Libya. Herodotus, however,
records how the Theran king Grinnos chose Battos, not a Theran by birth, to be the leader of the colonists. Herodotus' account continues with a description of a long
delay in the founding of Cyrene, due to the uncertainty of the location and hospitality of Libya. The foundation occurred after a delay of seven years before the
colonists set forth, followed by two aborted foundations, then the actual settlement of Cyrene. The detail given in the Histories surpasses in amount that given in the
degree inscription but does not contain any overtly absurd or patently false accounts. Herodotus' description remains true to what is known about early Greek colonization: the oracular role, economic and agricultural pressures spurring colonization, and the mysterious and dangerous nature of unexplored territories. One aspect, given in both Herodotus and the inscription, matches evidence of...

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