Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Herodotus and his 'Sources'.
Citation, Invention and Narrative Art

D. Fehling, trans. J.G. Howie

ARCA 21. ISBN 978-0-905205-70-0. Cloth, x+276 pp. Publ. 1989.   

Contents   Reviews

Professor Fehling's important study of source-citations in Herodotus first appeared in German in 1971 (Die Quellenangaben bei Herodot). It proved controversial at the time, setting its face as it did against the general trend of Herodotean studies over the preceding few decades.

Herodotus and his 'Sources' re-opens the question of the veracity of Herodotus' source-citations, raised in the last century in Britain by A.H. Sayce and in Germany by H. Panofsky. Their view, in essence that Herodotus simply invented most of the sources to which he attributed his information, so that they were without factual basis, met with general disbelief. However, modern arguments in favour of a factual basis are, as Fehling suggests in his Introduction, logically untenable. A rigorous analysis in Chapters 1 and 2 of Herodotus' methods of source-citation, and of his narrative strategies, lays the foundation for chapters on the role of free invention in Herodotus and on Herodotus' use of 'typical numbers'. Some comparative material from other authors, mainly ancient but also medieval, is adduced. A short concluding chapter sketches some of the wider implications of the view adopted in this study.

In this English edition, translated by J.G. Howie in close collaboration with the author, numerous small revisions and a few major ones are incorporated. The translator has aimed at clarity and ease of comprehension.

This book will be of primary concern to ancient historians. Historiographers and narratologists will also find much in it to interest them.

Analytical Contents


Chapter 1. Some demonstrably false source-citations

1,1 The miracle at Delphi (8.38-39.1); the death of Hamilcar (7.l66-167.1)

1,2 The Colchians and the Egyptians (2.104)

1,3 Two examples of double source-citation: Arion (1.23-24) and Aristeas (4.14)

1,4 Snake-skeletons (2.75)

1,5 Heaps of skulls (3,12)

1,6 Geological theories about the Nile Valley and Thessaly (2.10.1, 7.128-130)

1.7 Stories of national origins

1,8 The Carians (1.171) and the Phrygians (7.73, 8.138.2-3)

1,9 The Scythians (4.5-13)

1,10 Greek myth in the mouths of non-Greeks

1,11 The introductory chapters (1.l-5)

1,12 The transitional sentence in 1.5.3

1,13 Helen and Proteus (2.112-120)

1,14 The founding of Oracles in Libya and Dodona from Egyptian Thebes (2.54-57)

1,15 The history of Egypt as recounted by the priests (2.99-l42)

1,16 Hecataeus and the 345 generations of Egyptian history (2.100.1, 142.1, 143)

Chapter 2 The interpretation of Herodotus' source-citations

2,1 Introduction

2,2 The choice of the obvious source for citation

2,3 Precise calculations of what sources can or must know

2,4 Dividing up a single source into a plurality of sources

2,5 The principle of citing the obvious source: its range of application and some exceptions

2,6 Regard for credibility

2,7 relata refero

2,8 Disregard of the principle of citing the obvious source for the sake of regard for party bias

2,9 Regard for party bias in general, especially in the citation of different versions

2,10 Adducing several versions

2,11 Original and rationalisation presented as two separate versions

2,12 Division and distribution of integral ideas and material

2,13 The agreement of several sources and other forms of enhanced Confirmation

2,14 Specified interlocutors

2,15 Source-citations implying approval: "All men say"

2,16 Greek citations

2,17 Characteristic devices in lying-literature

2,18 Assurances of truthfulness and comments on credibility

2,19 Unsuccessful enquiries and confessions of ignorance

2,20 Proofs ("Beweisstücke")

2,21 Special forms of Proof

2,22 Monuments with inscriptions

2,23 Proofs in implicit form

2,24 The remaining passages. General rules for placing source-citations

2,25 The absence of any exceptions to the rules on the sources to be cited

2,26 Are there any indisputably genuine source-citations?

2,27 Are there any national citations reflecting a written source? Genuine information combined with false source-citations

2,28 The basic source-fiction of the whole work

2,29 The place of Herodotus' source-fictions in literary history

2,30 Parallels outside Herodotus

Chapter 3 The role of free invention in Herodotus

3,1 Preliminary observations

3,2 The obligation to vary from earlier authors

3,3 Pseudo-history

3,4 Inventions with a compositional function

3,5 Narrative economy

3,6 Converting contemporary circumstances into historical events

3,7 Building on earlier materials

3,8 Motif-repetition

3,9 The warner and adviser

3,10 Stories of known provenance

3,11 Conclusions

Chapter 4 Typical numbers and their use in Herodotus

4,1 General considerations

4,2 The individual numbers

4,3 Throwing in a little extra; numbers with the same digits in different orders of magnitude

4,4 Are the typical numbers put in by Herodotus or do they come from sources?

Chapter 5 The wider implications

5,1 Herodotus' travels

5,2 Herodotus' social status

5,3 Herodotus' credibility

5,4 Herodotus' real sources

5,5 How the Histories came into being

5,6 Herodotus' place in the history of science

5,7 Herodotus' later influence

Summary; List of works cited in abbreviated form; Index locorum; Subject index; Translator's acknowledgements



Journal of Hellenic Studies 112 (1992) 182-4 (esp. 183) (Hugh Bowden)

Classical World 84 (1991-92) 75-6 (Donald Lateiner): "Historians should ponder this original, closely argued contribution to the fundamental issue of ancient source citation. Gordon Howie's translation supersedes the compact German original (1971). The witty, polemical style highlights a radical thesis: Herodotus invents source-citations to fit whatever statements he likes."

Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 43 (1990) 59-55 (Reinhold Bichler)

JACT Review 8 (1990) 29 (J. Neville): "Whether one ends by believing F.'s conclusions or not hardly matters: he has confronted squarely questions which others have either ignored or overlooked. The book is thus essential reading for anyone with an interest in Hdt. or ancient historiography. We must also be deeply grateful to J.G. Howie for making this important work available in English."

Les Etudes Classiques 58 (1990) 86-7 (Corinne Bonnet)

Shadow 6 (1989) [School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh] 37