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Different Aims and Purposes of the Historians Herodotus and Thucydides.

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Introduction

Michael Argenti Different Aims and Purposes of the Historians Herodotus and Thucydides Every historian has certain personal, social and political contexts which affect their writing of history. This can be seen as early as Ancient Greek between the two historians Herodotus and Thucydides. The Greeks were amongst the first in the West to draw up histories by inquiring into such information that led to the facts concerning the past. It is a process that requires careful collection of information, judgment of sources, and the application of reason. Therefore, it attempts to develop history from a scientific rather than a mythical basis. Herodotus was the first Greek historian and is famous for the nine books he wrote on the rise of the Persian Empire, the Persian invaders of Greece in 490 and 480 B.C., the heroic fight of the Greeks against the invaders, and the final Greek victory (the 'Histories'). Thucydides was a Greek historian of the 400's B.C., who is famous for his 'History of the Peloponnesian War', in which he describes a war between Athens and Sparta (431B.C. - 404B.C.). Both historians used differing skills of re-telling the past and analysing the events that occurred. Herodotus' use of the historical method involved the careful accumulation of data, followed by deciding what conclusions the data support; this in turn greatly influenced later historians. ...read more.

Middle

is said; but I am not obliged to believe it all alike - a remark which may be understood to apply to my whole History.' It is important to note that Herodotus, being an immigrant into Athens, had to be able to gain support from the Athenian people and therefore, subconsciously adopting and echoing the Athenian mindset, he glorifies their contribution to the Persian wars. Herodotus also had an element of luck as one of the major Athenian statesmen, Pericles, was the son of Xanthippes, the general who defeated the Persians at Mycale. Herodotus consequently realised the momentous significance of the Persian wars and seised his opportunity. As a result, some of Herodotus' work was swayed into providing a biased or one-sided Athenian view on the Persian war; and this is important to keep in mind. This mentality was already present in other city-states, which felt vexed by the lavish glory Herodotus put upon Athens at the expense of Sparta, which led his common name the 'father of history' to be branded 'father of lies'. An example of the bias can be seen when he refers to the Persians (in reality, most who are royalty and aristocrats) as 'barbarians'. This is due to the fact that he was writing for the Athenians, to whom his loyalty is axiomatic, and he has chosen a selection of material that helps reinforce his view whilst excluding some differing information. ...read more.

Conclusion

yet after his expulsion in 424 B.C., he lived on his property in Thrace. There he spent a great deal of time travelling, which gave him the benefit of enjoying the rare advantage of contemplating the war from various points of view. Thucydides thought the war was worth recording because, it was the greatest the Greeks had ever fought. He set out to produce an accurate, unbiased account of the war, whilst visiting battlefields and talked to survivors from both sides. He also analysed the underlying political causes of the war and reported political speeches as a way of showing opposing viewpoints and reasons for certain actions. In conclusion, Herodotus had to deal with sorting through a range of secondary sources in order to document his findings, and at the same time appeal to the Athenian public. On the other hand Thucydides, the failed general, who, mixed with his aristocratic connections from all sides and brooding upon Athens over years of exile, attempted to create an accurate and precise recount of the Peloponnesian War. Both these points therefore explain the reasons for the differing aims and purposes of each historian, yet it must be remembered that social and political contexts did not only affect the reliability of the work from Ancient Greek historians, but rather has existed throughout time. To this day it is difficult sometimes to decipher what is a statement of fact versus what is influenced by popular socio-political principles. ...read more.

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