The Invention of History: The Pre-History of a Concept from Homer to Herodotus

The following pages, which deal with the pre-history of the concept of history from Homer to Herodotus, first propose to decenter and historicize the Greek experience. After briefly presenting earlier and different experiences, they focus on three figures: the soothsayer, the bard, and the historian. Starting from a series of Mesopotamian oracles (known as "historical oracles" because they make use in the apodosis of the perfect and not the future tense), they question the relations between divination and history, conceived as two, certainly different, sciences of the past, but which share the same intellectual space in the hands of the same specialists. The Greek choices were different. Their historiography presupposes the epic, which played the role of a generative matrix. Herodotus wished to rival Homer; what he ultimately became was Herodotus. Writing dominates; prose replaces verse; the Muse, who sees and knows everything, is no longer around. So I would suggest understanding the emblematic word "historia" as a subsititute, which operates as an analogue of the (previous) omnivision of the Muse. But before that, Herodotean "invention"-the meeting of Odysseus and the bard Demodocus, where for the first time the fall of Troy is told-can be seen as the beginning, poetically speaking at least, of the category of history.


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