Writing space, living space: time, agency and place relations in Herodotus’s Histories

Barker, Elton; Bouzarovski, Stefan; Isaksen, Leif and Pelling, Chris (2013). Writing space, living space: time, agency and place relations in Herodotus’s Histories. In: Heirman, Jo and Klooster, Jacqueline eds. The Ideologies of Lived Space in Literary Texts, Ancient and Modern. Ghent: Academia Press, pp. 229–247.

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This chapter examines lived space in Herodotus’s Histories’ and explores how the picture that emerges differs from abstract depictions of space. Such overly schematic representations we see articulated by the Persians at the very beginning of the Histories, or explicitly challenged by Herodotus when he ‘laughs at’ the maps produced by his Ionian contemporaries that similarly divide the world into two regions of equal size (4.36.2), or more subtly undercut when Aristagoras turns up with just such a map and puts it to service an argument in favour of conquest. In particular, we want to challenge conventional readings of a polarised world of East versus West, which, while grounded in Herodotus’s concern to show how ‘Greeks and barbarians came into conflict with each other’ (1.1), fail to take into account either Herodotus’s implicit rejection of the Persian model of an Asia-Europe divide in favour of an inquiry that recognises that places change over time, or the extent to which Herodotus or his historical agents relate those places to each other. Using key features of lived space—time, agency and relation—, we sketch out the beginnings of a network analysis of book 5, backed up by a close textual study of the book’s opening episode. Both methods help to unpack the idea of the Histories’ lived space that underpins and greatly complicates the historical agents’ own understanding of the world around them.

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