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Old 10-02-2014, 02:17 PM
 
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History is one of my favorite subjects, what I am curious about is if historians in the far past such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Quintus Fabius Pictor, etc. It seems as if historians in the past were more into writing down general basic information. Sure we can get a general idea of what happened, but my question is why weren't historians of the time meticulous in detailing the history of the time? Such as how big the Roman military of the time, or just go into detail about the kings/emperors etc.

Also, it is known that some historians injected their own thoughts and feelings rather than just state the facts, making it so that of the ancient historical accounts we do know are dubious if what they wrote was correct or not.

I just am curious why historians of the past were not much for detail or going into great depth of the history of the time it is written. Wouldn't people like Herodotus WANT people in the future to know everything that happened?
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Old 10-02-2014, 02:46 PM
 
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I am not knowledgable about these historians (Greek I believe?) but my guess is because most of their "facts" are simply stories handed down from generation to generation - as written records were pretty rare and reference libraries practically non-existent. Not that they were totally wrong, oral traditions are suprisngly accurate. But they are colored by the teller of these tales. I would guess he may have "fact-checked" by the few written records around - list of rulers, maybe some tax records, and so forth.
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Old 10-02-2014, 03:03 PM
 
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Have you not read Thucydides? EVERY detail of waging war is included, meticulously.
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Old 10-02-2014, 03:04 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Modern history, presentations where the truth of matters takes the highest priority, is a relatively modern concept. It dates to the first quarter of the 19th Century when Leopold von Ranke, a German history professor, began to formulate and advocate standards which historians should meet in their work. He was the first to conceive of the historian as a neutral story teller rather than someone with a persuasive agenda, be it religious or political. He created a huge controversy when he published a history of Prussia which treated it as the small princedom that it was rather than as a great and powerful state.

von Ranke also promoted the idea of the historian being non judgmental based on changing morals and present day attitudes. von Ranke argued for trying to grasp the mentalities of past generations and presenting their story as they would have seen it rather than as a judge sometime in the future would see it.

(I would add that von Ranke did not always succeed in producing bias free texts himself, he wrote from the limited perspective of an 19th Century European, but at least he identified that as the goal.)

Before von Ranke, history was seen as a purposeful endeavor. One wrote about the past in order to instruct the present day readers with the proper moral lesson, or one wrote about history to serve the present day needs of the state, which meant that whitewashing and sweeping the embarrassing stuff under the carpet was perfectly acceptable.

Roman historians wrote for the glory of Rome, or sometimes the glory of the current Roman emperor, and it is wise to keep that in mind when reading those sources. It was approved history in the sense that the goal was not the unvarnished truth, the goal was related to the impact the writing would have on the readers. Think of it in terms of how Hollywood treats history, the truth will always be subordinate to the goal of producing an entertaining and popular motion picture. Those facts which fit with the goal may be left intact, those which were found to be at cross purposes with the goal, may be overlooked or changed.
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Old 10-02-2014, 07:32 PM
 
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Remember, the winners write the history.
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Old 10-02-2014, 08:48 PM
 
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I'm a bit confused...

How do we know so many details of life in Rome, Egypt, China or any other part of the world where those living contemporaneously had not recorded the events, lives, and politics of their time?
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