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Moral History from Herodotus to Diodorus Siculus

Lisa Irene Hau

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An investigation of moral-didactic techniques and messages in ancient Greek historiography

Why did human beings first begin to write history? Lisa Irene Hau argues that a driving force among Greek historians was the desire to use the past to teach lessons about the present and for the future. She uncovers the moral messages of the ancient Greek writers of history and the techniques they used to bring them across. Hau also shows how moral didacticism was an integral part of the writing of history from its inception in the 5th century BC, how it developed over the next 500 years in parallel with the development of historiography as a genre and how the moral messages on display remained surprisingly stable across this period.

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Part I. Hellenistic Historiography
Chapter 1. Polybius
Chapter 2. Diodorus Siculus
Chapter 3. Fragmentary Hellenistic Historiography
Timaeus of Tauromenium (FGrH 566)
Duris of Samos (FGrH 76)
Phylarchus (FGrH 81)
Agatharchides of Cnidus (FGrH 86)
Posidonius of Apamea (FGrH 87)
Hieronymus of Cardia (FGrH 154)
Part II. Classical Historiography
Chapter 4. Herodotus
Chapter 5. Thucydides
Chapter 6. Xenophon Hellenica
Chapter 7. Fragments of Classical Historiographers
The Oxyrhynchus Historian
Ephorus of Cyme (FGrH 70)
Theopompus of Chios (FGrH 115) Conclusion: from macro and minimalist moralising to explicit paradeigmata
Text editions
Scholarly literature.

About the Author

Lisa Irene Hau is Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow. She is the author of Beyond the Battlefields: New Perspectives on Warfare and Society in the Graeco-Roman World (2008). She is a contributor to Defining Greek Narrative edited by Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel (EUP, 2014).


Hau deploys the overt moralising of the Hellenistic historians to illuminate the more implicit and thought-provoking moralising of their Classical forebears. Among other questions she asks: does moral didacticism make for bad historiography? Was it simply a lens for viewing events, or could it drive wholesale invention?

- Emily Baragwanath, The University of North Carolina

The bibliography, the place index, and the general index (p. 278-312) round off the book, which is also designed in a graphically appealing manner. Overall, Hau's comprehensive work provides thought-provoking and interesting suggestions. (Translated from the German)

- Carlo Scardino, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf , Bryn Mawr Classical Review