Historical Causation in Ancient Texts

Topics: Thucydides, Delphi, History Pages: 4 (1188 words) Published: October 17, 2012
Ye Hua
Social Foundation


The significance and implications of assumptions about ‘historical causation’ in Herodotus’s The Histories and Thucydides’sThe Peloponnesian war

Historical causation is a facet of historical analysis that focuses on explaining what occasioned or affected historic event. Causation analysis, thus, investigates the social, political, moral background of movements, ideologies and environmental occurrence; nevertheless, these analyses themselves are influenced by the shifting ideas of assumptions about what the ‘cause’ means. Herodotus, the so called ‘father of history’, has stark contrast to Thucydides, the so called ‘father of Realpolitik’, on the way of how they interpret the historical causation. In general, Herodotus involves an extensive amount of theology to manifest his moral pedagogy; in contrast, Thucydides contempts on the unreasonable exaggeration of the function of the gods, and sticks to the scientific facts and forms the model of truthful history.

Herodotus emphasizes the significance of three aspects – human hubris, fate, and the Gods -- which he assumes to be the causation of the historic event. This belief is given substance by the Croesus’s downfall which caused by the mixture of the above aspects. First of all, the failure of Croesus’s invasion of Persia is a doomed fate, because the priestess of the Shrine added that the Heraclids would have their revenge on Gyges in the fifth generation (I.14). Secondly, the greedy and the insolent nature of Croesus caused him to misinterpret the Delphic Oracle by the lacking of further inquiry and prodded him to expand his territory by the military invasion. Lastly, the Gods also wielded power to punish Croesus by dooming the early death of his son, probably because what as Solon said – Often enough God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him. (I .32) So then, the collapse of Lydia is due to the doomed fate of Croesus, the human...
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