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Ctesias of Cnidus, a Reappraisal

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The works of Ctesias of Cnidus have frequently been regarded as second rate at best. His reliability as a historian has been seriously questioned in particular, not only by Felix Jacoby and many historians after him, but also by authors in antiquity. Doubts were especially raised about Ctesias' Indica, but also the trustworthiness of his Persica was—and still is—considered dubious. This verdict appears to be unfair, for two reasons. The first is that hardly anything that can be attributed directly to Ctesias has survived: the overwhelming majority of material ascribed to Ctesias has been transmitted by other authors, who used their source not necessarily with proper care. The second is to be found in Demetrius' On Style: here a new perspective on Ctesias is offered. It shows that we should no longer regard Ctesias primarily as a historian, but as a forerunner of a new literary genre (culminating in the classical novel) mixing historical fact with fictitious elements. It is only because of the lack of a proper word in antiquity to describe this genre that the term 'history' was applied to his work as well. It would confuse many generations of historians and deny Ctesias his proper place in Greek literary history.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam, Ancient History, c/o Reestein 9, 2151 KB Nieuw-Vennep, The Netherlands


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