1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Logographi

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LOGOGRAPHI (λόγος, γράφω, writers of prose histories or tales), the name given by modern scholars to the Greek historiographers before Herodotus.[1] Thucydides, however, applies the term to all his own predecessors, and it is therefore usual to make a distinction between the older and the younger logographers. Their representatives, with one exception, came from Ionia and its islands, which from their position were most favourably situated for the acquisition of knowledge concerning the distant countries of East and West. They wrote in the Ionic dialect, in what was called the unperiodic style, and preserved the poetic character of their epic model. Their criticism amounts to nothing more than a crude attempt to rationalize the current legends and traditions connected with the founding of cities, the genealogies of ruling families, and the manners and customs of individual peoples. Of scientific criticism there is no trace whatever. The first of these historians was probably Cadmus of Miletus (who lived, if at all, in the early part of the 6th century), the earliest writer of prose, author of a work on the founding of his native city and the colonization of Ionia (so Suïdas); Pherecydes of Leros, who died about 400, is generally considered the last. Mention may also be made of the following: Hecataeus of Miletus (550–476); Acusilaus of Argos,[2] who paraphrased in prose (correcting the tradition where it seemed necessary) the genealogical works of Hesiod in the Ionic dialect; he confined his attention to the prehistoric period, and made no attempt at a real history; Charon of Lampsacus (c. 450), author of histories of Persia, Libya, and Ethiopia, of annals (ὧροι) of his native town with lists of the prytaneis and archons, and of the chronicles of Lacedaemonian kings; Xanthus of Sardis in Lydia (c. 450), author of a history of Lydia, one of the chief authorities used by Nicolaus of Damascus (fl. during the time of Augustus); Hellanicus of Mytilene; Stesimbrotus of Thasos, opponent of Pericles and reputed author of a political pamphlet on Themistocles, Thucydides and Pericles; Hippys and Glaucus, both of Rhegium, the first the author of histories of Italy and Sicily, the second of a treatise on ancient poets and musicians, used by Harpocration and Plutarch; Damastes of Sigeum, pupil of Hellanicus, author of genealogies of the combatants before Troy (an ethnographic and statistical list), of short treatises on poets, sophists, and geographical subjects.

On the early Greek historians, see G. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte (1893), i. 147-153; C. Wachsmuth, Einleitung in das Studium der alten Geschichte (1895); A. Schäfer, Abriss der Quellenkunde der griechischen und römischen Geschichte (ed. H. Nissen, 1889); J. B. Bury, Ancient Greek Historians (1909), lecture i.; histories of Greek literature by Müller-Donaldson (ch. 18) and W. Mure (bk. iv. ch. 3), where the little that is known concerning the life and writings of the logographers is exhaustively discussed. The fragments will be found, with Latin notes, translation, prolegomena, and copious indexes, in C. W. Müller’s Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum (1841–1870).

See also Greece: History, Ancient (section, “Authorities”).

  1. The word is also used of the writers of speeches for the use of the contending parties in the law courts, who were forbidden to employ advocates.
  2. There is some doubt as to whether this Acusilaus was of Peloponnesian or Boeotian Argos. Possibly there were two of the name. For an example of the method of Acusilaus see Bury, op. cit. p. 19.