Plus ça change.... Ancient historians and their sources

A. Brian Bosworth

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41 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


This article addresses the problem of veracity in ancient historiography. It contests some recent views that the criteria of truth in historical writing were comparable to the standards of forensic rhetoric. Against this I contend that the historians of antiquity did follow their sources with commendable fidelity, superimposing a layer of comment but not adding independent material. To illustrate the point I examine the techniques of the Alexander historian, Q. Curtius Rufus, comparing his treatment of events with a range of other sources that reflect the same tradition. The results can be paralleled in early modern historiography, in the dispute between J. G. Droysen and K. W. Krüger on the character of Callisthenes of Olynthus. Both operate with the same material, but give it different "spins" according to their political perspectives. There is error and hyperbole, but no deliberate fiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-197
Number of pages31
JournalClassical Antiquity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003

Bibliographical note

Published as Classical Antiquity, Vol. 22, Number 2, pp. 167-197. Copyright 2003 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on Caliber ( or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,


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