THE THUCYDIDEAN ELEMENT IN THE SPEECHES OF THE MYTILENAEAN DEBATE: HISTORY 3.37 - 48
AbstractThe problem of defining the precise relationship between Thucydides’ speeches and their exemplars has recently been characterized as “one of the central problems that confronts the ancient historian”.1 It is true that in spite of generations of careful work, and despite Thucydides’ own methodological comments which purport to explain the issue, the problem endures.2 Are the addresses bequeathed to us in the History essentially the historian’s own handiwork, or are they, for all intents and purposes, accurate synopses of the actual speeches? Moderates in this debate may wish to note that proponents of both of the above positions generally have a foot in the other camp as well, the former being wisely unwilling to deny the speeches all historicity, the latter being warned by Thucydides’ own words that verbatim accounts were impossible to obtain and reproduce (1.22.1), so that in this respect, at any rate, some consensus might be claimed.3 The exact point, however, at which the speeches depart from historical reality, or just what that element of non-reality or its purpose might be, continue to be matters of disagreement.
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