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Herodotus and Athens

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Chapter Summary

Most older scholarship considered Herodotus an admirer both of Persian-war and contemporary Athens. Herodotus' history of mainland Greece begins by comparing Athens and Sparta. Herodotus defends the Alcmaeonids against the accusation of raising a shield to the Persians. While emphasizing that Athenian support of the Ionian Revolt ultimately caused the Persian invasion, Herodotus hails the Athenians particularly Themistocles as Greece's saviours and Athenian greatness as deriving from political freedom. Herodotus celebrates the growth of Athenian power after the Peisistratids' expulsion. Athens is in the History's conception : the Athenian empire/tyranny turned Herodotus to history-writing. Among the many sources of the History's greatness is its moral seriousness, including advocacy of political freedom, at least within the Greek world. Athens is not thereby the History's central concern : she is a paradigm of universal processes, albeit for contemporaries the sharpest one.

Keywords: albeit; Alcmaeonids; Athens; Greece; Herodotus; Ionian Revolt; Peisistratids; Persian-war



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