Logograph (history)

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The term logograph ( ancient Greek λογογράφος logográphos ) was used by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides (Thucydides 1, 21), who used it to denote his predecessors. The classical philologist Friedrich Creuzer introduced this term to science in the middle of the 19th century and for a long time referred to the earliest Greek historians before Herodotus , who is considered the "father of historiography".

Modern research draws attention to the problem of the term logograph (s) , which for several reasons should better not be used for the early Greek historians. For Thucydides used the term in general for prose writers and in no way excludes Herodotus from this group, but instead exercises sharp criticism there. Furthermore, it is pointed out that another characterization that is often used, which is found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus , is inappropriate. Dionysius lists a catalog of historical writers before Thucydides (see below), but does not call them logographers. Above all, however, these authors do not constitute a closed group, but wrote very different works, for example on mythical, historical or regional topics.

Hecataeus of Miletus

Hecataus of Miletus (around 560/550 to approx. 480 BC), who was the direct successor to Anaximander of Miletus (around 611 to approx. 547 BC), even if he never met him personally, is regarded as the main representative of the so-called logographers. He wrote a world map with a detailed description of the earth in two books ( ancient Greek Περιήγησις γῆς Periēgesis gēs ).

For his Periegese, Hekataios collected travel reports and tried to evaluate them objectively. In his Periegese there are also descriptions of the country: “In his description of Europe, Hecataeus claims that the Paioners drink beer from barley and [a drink called] Parabie made from millet and dry root” (F 154), which he probably learned from some travelogue. The Periegese was an extraordinarily rich in material and apparently literarily undemanding work, which shows the de-divinization of celestial phenomena and the sober orientation of his thinking to human experience.

His second work goes a huge step further in the direction of historiography. It is mostly referred to as Genealogiai ( ancient Greek Γενεαλογίαι ), sometimes as Historiai ( ancient Greek Ἱστορίαι ). His proom reads: “Hecataus of Miletus proclaims the following: I am writing this as it seems to me to be true. Because the stories of the Greeks are many and ridiculous as they appear to me. ”According to Otto Lendle, this is the real nucleus of Greek historiography. Hekataios took the old sagas and examined them. He humanized: In a myth that featured a three-headed Geryones , he became a normal human king at Hekataios. He moderated: "Hekataios writes the following: 'Aegyptus himself did not come to Argos, but his sons, as Hesiod wrote, fifty, as I [think], not even twenty." Here Hekataios applied the criterion of common sense: So many No one has children.

He tried to bring order to the theogony of Hesiod . Hekataios intended to demythologize the old stories. To get that far, the rational worldview first had to develop.

Other so-called logographs

Other so-called "logographers" such as Akusilaos from Argos , Pherecydes from Athens , Xanthos the Lydians , Antiochus from Syracuse collected local stories and legends and tried to systematize the material more strongly. Only a fraction of the works of these authors has survived; these are so-called fragments, which are mainly available in the form of quotations from later authors. The reason for the disappearance of so many works can be explained by the fact that they seemed too uninteresting at the time to be copied.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( de Thucydide , Chapter 5) lists the most famous historians before Thucydides. You are in the following incomplete list of those historians who are usually, albeit not precisely, counted among the so-called "logographers" (or rather: the older Greek historians) in historiography, marked with an asterisk (*):



  1. Cf. Klaus Meister: The Greek Historiography . Stuttgart 1990, p. 24.
  2. Dionysios, de Thucydide , chapter 5.
  3. ^ For an introduction see Klaus Meister: The Greek Historiography . Stuttgart 1990, pp. 20-23.
  4. Overview with Otto Lendle: Introduction to Greek historiography: from Hekataios to Zosimos . Darmstadt 1992, p. 10ff.