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ANCIENT HISTORY > ARCHIVE - *Supplemental - Location and Dislocation in Herodotus

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is a supplemental thread. This is not a no spoiler thread; here readers may post discussions related to the idea of location and dislocation in Herodotus and The Histories.

I am recommending the Cambridge Companion to Herodotus by Carolyn Dewald and John Marincola to help further this discussion. This is an excellent companion to anybody reading Herodotus and there is an essay in this addition which will aid in this discussion - specifically the one by Rachel Friedman on pages 165 - 177.

Please note:

This thread's discussion must be confined to this topic area. The entire book may be discussed here if it is focused on this thread's topic. Off Topic discussions should be relegated to the Off Topic Cafe.

For those readers who do not want to read any spoilers; participate only on the weekly threads located at the top of the group board. As everyone is aware, the book/section threads are the official "no spoiler threads" and if discussion veers off course or into portions not yet discussed in the book, then one needs to mark it and note that the text that is to follow is a Potential Spoiler.

These supplemental threads do not have this same rule; so if you are reading HERODOTUS for the first time, you might want to remain on the weekly BOOK/SECTION threads until you are much further along and not visit the supplemental threads.

Of course, the approach the reader takes is left up to them and we are providing both options.

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (Cambridge Companions to Literature) by John Marincola

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
One of the theories in this segment is that Herodotus was able to see the big picture specifically because he did not belong to any one place and was a traveler. He is able to create a distinction between himself and his subjects; but he also creates some analogies as well. Herodotus through his subjects links travel with wisdom and uses the story of Solon to show that. Solon and Herodotus are linked in their placelessness and their engagement with theory. The anthopologist James Clifford is cited: " Theory is a product of displacement, comparison, a certain distance. To theorise, one leaves home."

Rachel Friedman feels that Solon is a figure who performs metanarrative function in his echoing of these crucial aspects of Herodotus' own authorial persona. In fact, The Histories according to Friedman has a number of traveling theorists who help the reader better learn to understand Herodotus' own conception of his groundbreaking project and his role in it. She feels it also shows that Herodotus also sensed nostalgia or a wanting to be able to go back to his roots.

Source: TCCTH - pages 165 - 172

message 4: by Prunesquallor (last edited Oct 17, 2008 09:20AM) (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments A matter of some interest to me is an attempt to understand how critical analysts go about their business. Rachel Friedman constructs in her "Location and Dislocation" a bold statement concerning the development of "historical objectivity" and fair-mindedness in Herodotus. But does she do so fairly?

"Herodotus' lack of attachment to one particular place is also reflected in the ancient biographical tradition about him which records that he was born in Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, but was twice exiled from there and then eventually participated in the panhellenic colonisation of Thurii in southern Italy." (Herodotus, Cambridge Companion, "Location and Dislocation," Rachel Friedman, p. 166)

As I read this section, I am not as certain as Friedman seems to be, that Herodotus WAS a "rootless" sort of individual, and therefore better able than most Greeks to put aside his local "patriotism/ partisanship" and view the Persian - Greek conflict from a point of relative neutrality. Friedman assumes that Herodotus lacked attachment to a "home-place," simply because he was a traveler (at times a forced traveler through the mechanism of exile) -- is she justified in presenting this interpretation? I wonder. At best, I think, we might validly pose the explanation that Herodotus was forced to travel more than many Greeks, and that this travel "broadened his mind" sufficiently to the point where he could view the Greek-Persian conflict with less partisan zeal than many of his fellow Greeks. But did he actually suffer a sense of personal "dislocation?" Did Herodotus himself feel "rootless," did he ever give up an identification with the place of his birth? Does he ever make a direct statement to this effect? I've seen none such, so far...

Friedman also makes much of the fact that two of the early manuscripts have variant readings:

" 'This is the display of the research of Herodotus of Halicarnassus', but it is clear that there was a variant reading in antiquity which identified Herodotus not as a Halicarnassian, but as a Thurian." (Herodotus, Cambridge Companion, p. 167)

If we could be certain that Herodotus himself wrote both variants, then we might be able to make the case that Herodotus did indeed have some ambiguity in his own mind concerning just where his roots might lie. But, it is more likely that the manuscripts were both later copies and simply reflect the uncertainty (concerning Herodotus' origins) that lay in the minds of these scribes. Thurii was founded in 443 BCE, Herodotus, born in 484, would have been 41 when he moved to this new colony, so much of his writing would have taken place before he went to Italy, and he would already have made his decision to be "impartial" long before this "dislocation."*

While I agree with Friedman that "Herodotus, like Solon, is capable of a certain ability to see human affairs in the broadest of possible contexts," (HCC, p. 167) I simply disagree with her attributing this "ability" to a sense of personal "dislocation" occasioned by his removal to Thurii. I think we need to look elsewhere for an explanation of this Herodotean "broad-minded," non-partisan approach to history.

If we "disallow," as unproven/ unproveable (?) Friedman's assumption of the "rootlessness" of Herodotus, how does this impact the rest of her material?

*Some sources put the writing of "The Histories" between 431 and 424, but I am uncertain as to whether this means the material was given its final, "press-release" shape then, or if the entire scheme was only conceived at this late point in Herodotus' life. At any rate, Herodotus was doing his "research" travels before the establishment of Thurii.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

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I missed this post Bentley. It's fabulous!

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 18, 2008 07:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Vanessa.

Prunesquallor, you make some very good points, but remember H was thrown out of his native homeland because of some plot against some tryrannical ruler way before he ended up in Thurii as you correctly noted and I tried to see the analogy to my own life in of course a fictional way.

Let us say that I was born In New England in one state and lived however in another state but could never go back to my roots where I was born at any time because of actions on my part; I would sense dislocation and loss; then further if I was thrown out of New England altogether and had to settle in New Jersey with no chance of going back to see family, friends, the old homestead, etc. I think my dislocation would be truly great. I would be forced to try to become a citizen of a new state and I might live happily but I would always have a sense that this is not where I really belong .

Sometimes folks who have gone through this and are political refugees have slightly different views of what it means to belong anywhere; even though they are glad to be alive and well. Maybe because of their experiences they have a more expansive view of human nature and its pitfalls because of what happened to them.

I do think however that Herodotus was partisan, had a side on most issues and pretended maybe to himself that he was presenting a balanced view but maybe was not as neutral as he would like us to believe.

As far as Friedman, she makes some interesting points and I guess in a classical sense we can buy it or not.


message 7: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments RE Bentley: "I do think however that Herodotus was partisan, had a side on most issues and pretended maybe to himself that he was presenting a balanced view but maybe was not as neutral as he would like us to believe."

Precisely, Bentley! I also think we are dealing with nuances when we ascribe to Herodotus a "lack of partisanship" -- he is trapped by his own human nature, his mind (like ours) will always carry the burden of its own prejudices. But, he was one of the first to make what has been called the "noble attempt:" to present his material as objectively as possible. That, in itself, has enormous import for the development of the discipline.

RE Bentley: "...remember H was thrown out of his native homeland because of some plot against some tryrannical ruler way before he ended up in Thurii ..."

I think with Friedman, we are also working our way through shades of grey, her material is not worthless, I just think it overdraws its point. Ostracism was a common tool in the Greek city states, there were many who could claim a similar personal history -- did this make them "dislocatees" and did it increase automatically their abilities to see the world from another culture's point of view? Maybe, for some -- maybe not for others? Alcibiades?

Quite often, the Ex-pats are the most concerned with home-place memories, with preserving the home-land customs, with practicing patterns of avoidance when it comes to rubbing shoulders with the Other. Recalling here the presence of the British in India, and the current U.S. military colonies scattered around the world where "dislocative-nostalgia" seems to provoke an enhanced xenophobia as often as not.

This is something Friedman seems to recognize when she more fully develops the theme of "nostalgia" herself (pp 172ff). For me to feel comfortable in accepting her thesis, however, I should like to see some corroborating statements from Herodotus himself, detailing his own sense of "dislocation." Then, I might put more credence into Friedman's presentation and her conclusion that "dislocation-nostalgia" produced in him a greater than normal sense of "fair-play" when he recorded the acts of other peoples.

Something I read here in passing, perhaps it was in one of Vanessa's posts, mentioned the great amount of cultural mingling going on in Asia Minor between Greek and Hittite-Luvian cultures. This is something to pursue. It gives us an alternate mechanism for Herodotus' "relative" cosmopolitanism and "relative" objectivity. I am currently feeling my way toward an understanding of just how much fusion had already taken place, producing a group of people who were cosmopolitan in outlook, non-xenophobic, citizens of a wider realm. I had assumed this sort of multi-culturalism came in first with the Hellenistic era. Now, I think we might see this cultural mingling, and the ability to see the points of view of differing cultures as being well established in the melting pot of Asia Minor, maybe as early as the 7th century? LOL, perhaps in a misplaced concern for wielding Occam's Razor, I see a simpler explanation for Herodotus' cosmopolitan attitude and fair-mindedness than does Friedman -- I think it required no Freudian alienation for Herodotus to meet and mingle with the "foreign" -- his culture, I believe, was already a hybrid one, a city state member of a "bridge-zone" community that actually gave him a foot in both camps?

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

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My prof mentioned in passing (I hope he'll go into it more) that H had access to Persian sources that others would not have had.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I wonder if Ilya listened to Vandiver?

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

When reading Friedman I kept thinking that she was projecting, assuming she is Jewish. Ever since the Jews were exiled 2000 years ago, we've been outsiders wherever we live. I think it does give a different perspective, but as you say, we always see things through our own eyes so I had the feeling that Friedman was stretching a bit. I think what it does give us an awareness that there is another way to see things. I have a good friend who has lived her entire life in the same area. She's a wonderful person, an Evangelical, who is rooted in her beliefs in a way I can't imagine. Not that some Jews aren't rooted, but there's always that awareness that the majority does not see things the way you do. There's always that sense of comparison.
I imagine that H living as a minority in Asia might have felt something similar.

BTW, there is strong evidence that Cervantes was Jewish. Reading Don Quixote with that in mind clarifies a lot!

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Guys, I am just digesting all of these wonderful posts; I was away this weekend on an impromptu trip; back to Maine.

Prunesquallor; I feel similarly about Friedman's segment; but I do sense that Vanessa may be on to something in message 11. I am not Jewish; but I think possibly that Vanessa may have stumbled onto a likely explanation for some of of Friedman's thinking.

I think we all suffer from nostalgia for people and places we love so... I think that I did an impromptu trip this weekend to one of them and feel much more invigorated for taking the time to do it. It sort of energizes your batteries for life. I do feel that H sometimes felt like a fish out of water and as an observer who never felt he belonged anywhere any longer. Maybe he traveled to look for the next new place to see how it felt to him and what he could learn from the experience. Maybe he did what he did so that he would be remembered and with this be able to have some roots in a timeless way.


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