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‘One Harmonious Body’

Dionysius, Herodotus, and the Rhetoric of Empire

In: Mnemosyne
Author:
N . Bryant Kirkland University of California Los Angeles, Dept. of Classics

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Abstract

This paper examines aspects of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s reception of Herodotus, including his use of ethnographic polarity and his assessment of Herodotean scope and unity, to argue that Dionysius’s adulation of Herodotus is related to his own articulation of nascent Roman imperialism. In particular, Dionysius’s response to Herodotus’s variegated but monolithic narrative is connected to a rhetoric of empire germane to his own interests as a critic and historian. I first recall some contours of Dionysius’s admiration of Herodotus and the consistency of purpose expressed across Dionysius’s corpus, before analyzing his ethnographic spin on Roman history. Later, Dionysius’s use in On Demosthenes of a speech by Xerxes is read as reinforcing some of the imperial themes of his own work, including the emphasis on a global rhetoric that replays the Greek repulse of a barbarian foe.

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