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Herodotus: Historian, proto-feminist, and proto-biographer

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
Claims that Herodotus reveals himself as a proto-biographer are not yet widely accepted. To advance this claim, I have selected three women and four men from one side or the other of the Helleno-Persian Wars whose activities are recounted in his Histories. It is to a near contemporary, Heraclitus, to whom we attribute the maxim—character is human destiny. It is the truth of his maxim—which implies effective human agency—that makes Herodotus’ creation of historical narrative possible. Herodotus is often read for his off-topic vignettes, which colour-in the character of the individuals depicted without necessarily advancing his narrative. By hop scotching through the nine books of his Histories, we can assemble a largely continuous narrative for these seven remarkable individuals. This permits us to attribute both credit and moral responsibility for their actions. Arguably this implied causation demonstrates that Herodotus’ writings include much that amounts to proto-biography.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Mirhady, David Cyrus
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