Jan Haywood – my favourite articles from JHS
I am delighted to join the Journal of Hellenic Studies team, working jointly as Reviews Editor with Dr Fiona Hobden, Senior Lecturer in Greek Culture at the University of Liverpool. Indeed, it is a great privilege to be involved in a journal that I have made extensive use of ever since the first year of my undergraduate studies.
It is a daunting prospect when being asked to select my favourite articles from a prestigious publication such as JHS, which houses an enormous wealth of valuable scholarship. The first two articles that I have selected were particularly influential while I carried out my doctorial research into Herodotus and his intertextual world, while the third article has proved to be especially useful over the last year, as I have come to revise my doctoral thesis for publication as a monograph.
In ‘Herodotos and his contemporaries’, Robert Fowler tackles afresh one of the most contested areas of debate in Herodotean studies, namely: who were the prose writers operating either before or contemporary with the so-called ‘first historian’? Fowler’s work proves a decisive challenge to the schema developed by that great classicist, Felix Jacoby, whose ideas on the development of Greek historiography proved so influential for much of the twentieth century. What’s more, Fowler’s article provides a much-needed riposte to Detlev Fehling’s Die Quellenangaben bei Herodot. Studien zur Erzählkunst Herodots (Berlin, New York; 1971), in which Fehling had argued so vociferously for Herodotus having inventing the traditions that he records. Fowler shows rather than having inventing his sources, Herodotus ‘discovered the problem of sources’ (86).
Marek Węcowski’s ‘The hedgehog and the fox: form and meaning in the prologue of Herodotus’ offers a wide-ranging re-assessment of the opening five chapters of the Histories (herein classified as an ‘extended preface’), while also exploring Herodotus’ connections with various intellectual traditions. Węcowski argues persuasively for the tension between Herodotus’ ‘monsitic’ worldview, which is centred on the concept of the ‘cycle of human affairs’ (articulated most explicitly at 1.5.4 in the Histories) and his interest elsewhere in recording multiple traditions—not least those that affirm his interest in ‘the marvellous’. The article also situates Herodotus’ self-presentation within the wider intellectual milieu of the fifth century BCE; as Węcowski shows, this was a period in which thinkers were exponents of either polymathiē (‘much-learning’) or sophiē (‘wisdom’).
Finally, Valeria Sergueenkova’s ‘Counting the past in Herodotus’ Histories’ from JHS 2016, an issue equipped with a particularly impressive suite of articles focused on Herodotus, makes a valuable contribution to our appreciation of the function of numbers in the Histories and Herodotus’ quantifying efforts. Herodotus has long been recognised for his interest in large numbers, and, famously, he was criticised by Detlev Fehling for his use of ‘typical numbers’, which, according to Fehling, were often invented by Herodotus. Sergueenkova extends a rather different reading, however, instead analysing how large numbers operate in Book II of the Histories; the article shows clearly the way in which Herodotus reckons with, measures and visualises numbers in order to make sense of his geographical and historical inquires. Such efforts are not deployed merely as a rhetorical tool in order to persuade Herodotus’ audience; rather, counting and quantifying exemplify the methods of Herodotus as historian.
Each of these articles has had a decisive impact on my perception of Herodotus as researcher and narrator, and on how I relate his relationship with other intellectual figures of the fifth century BCE. Of course, this brief piece has only begun to touch the surface in terms of the rich body of scholarship the JHS archives have to offer.
Each of the papers selected here will be freely-available until July 16.
‘Herodotos and his contemporaries’, Robert Fowler
‘The hedgehog and the fox: form and meaning in the prologue of Herodotus’, Marek Węcowski
‘Counting the past in Herodotus’ Histories‘, Valeria Sergueenkova