By W. H. Walsh
Advent to the character of old rationalization
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Extra info for An Introduction to the Philosophy of History
The Persian Magi are by no means misfits. Their priestly role and the fabulous revelatory nature of the Zoroastrian mythology are perfectly suited to the context. It is tempting to believe that Theopompus would have included an account of Zoroaster himself in which portents and prophesies abounded, but unfortunately there is not a scrap of evidence that he did so. While it is true that his account of the myths of creation and judgment sound authentically Zoroastrian, the fragments do not reveal what Theopompus knew about Zoroaster himself: whether he made him the great prophet he was reported to be or whether he blended conflicting aspects of Iranian religion and cult into one uncritical report.
Nevertheless, it might be reasonably supposed that the section in which Aristotle gives advice on how to compose narrative in epideictic oratory would be relevant to the study of historical narrative. His remarks on that subject are worth quoting in part: "One's narration should sometimes be broken up ... "66 It might follow that a historical narrative that set out the great achievements of an illustrious man would be difficult to distinguish from narrative components of an encomiastic set speech about him.
This latter alternative looks a little more attractive in the context of the Oyrhynchus historian or P. Though substantial fragments exist, this work's commencement and termination dates are not known, nor the number of books. Presumably P's work would have been called a Hellenica, and there is good evidence42 that it continued the unfinished Peloponnesian War of Thucydides. If so, it began with the year 412 or 411. Its termination is less certain, but 386 has been suggested,43 and that would seem to be the earliest appropriate date for a history like the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia to aim for.
An Introduction to the Philosophy of History by W. H. Walsh