Université de Strasbourg

Ancient Battle Narratives

The Battle Narratives of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon: A Rhetorical Study

USIAS Fellow: Edith Foster

This study undertakes an analysis of the battle narratives of the three founding historians of the western historiographical tradition. The study lays special emphasis on analyzing how the historians’ narratives appealed to their post-war audiences in each case, and on how the necessity and desire to appeal to this audience affected the composition of the battle narratives. Thus it begins by analyzing the battle narratives for their role in the structure of the histories and for their individual rhetorical characteristics, and by elucidating how the three historians relate to one another, in respect to their representation of battles, since their writings cover a continuous period of history in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, and the historians were intensely aware of their predecessors’ examples, including the Homeric example. It continues by examining how the historians met their audience’s expectations, while at the same time remaining true to the events of battles and campaigns, perhaps focusing especially on narratives of the audience’s own defeats, which will have been painful for readers to hear or read about. It concludes with analysis of the significance of these battle and war narratives for the historians and for us.

Investissements d'Avenir