Drama and Historiography: the Interaction between Diegesis and Mimesis in Herodotus and Thucydides
This essay explores the presence and dynamic combination of the diegetic and mimetic modes in the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides as typical examples of fifth-century BC Greek historiography. Relying on significant examples, it offers a narratological discussion of diegesis (heterodiegesis, omniscience, and dramatized narration) showing similarities and differences between the two authors. It also investigates the main functions of mimesis, or direct speech, in their narratives, and illustrates its aims and causes, how it contributes to the psychological characterization and the dramatization of the events, as well as their explanation and interpretation. The widespread presence of dialogues in both Herodotus and Thucydides raises a number of intriguing theoretical questions regarding the relation of their prose with the epic model and the composition and oral fruition of historiographical works in the fifth century. Special attention is devoted to specific passages which, while being almost devoid of narrative pieces (Xerxes’ Council in Herodotus 7.8-19 and the Melian dialogue in Thucydides 5.85-113), show a peculiar proclivity for dialogue suggestiong a typically dramatic potential.
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