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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Genres of history: Mythos, istoria, legend, and plasma in Strabo's "Geography"
by Gresens, Nicholas, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2009, 317; 3380153
Abstract (Summary)

Strabo of Amasia, a highly educated, relatively well-connected, and otherwise unknown Greek from Asia Minor, set out to compose a description of the inhabited world during the reign of Augustus. In the course of this account of the oikumene, Strabo includes numerous side notes about the past. Functionally, Strabo includes many of these events because they make the given location famous (2.5.17). Based on their subject matter, however, the accounts of these events inhabit genres that we might call history, legend, and myth. Because the Geography is an ostensibly factual account of the world, the question posed in this dissertation is whether Strabo believed these different stories equally and how we might be able to identify what Strabo believed about the past.

In order to answer this question, this dissertation undertakes a rigorous analysis of Strabo’s narrative technique with regard to these accounts of past events. The Geography as a whole is a complex work composed of numerous simple speech acts. Strabo himself would have recognized at least three principal genres of speech act: historia, muthos, and plasma. Each of these terms implies a specific relation to reality and, therefore, expresses the level of belief Strabo wished to attribute to a given narrative. In conjunction with these particular genres of the history, Strabo utilizes various rhetorical tools—a rhetoric of belief—to reflect to his readers to what extent they are supposed to believe a given narrative. The way Strabo narrates his accounts and not the subject matter of those accounts, therefore, determines the particular genre of a given narrative in the Geography.

A careful analysis of the narratives about the past gives us a better understanding of how Strabo views the past, how he views his role as a narrator of past events, and what his overall vision for the Geography is. Although this dissertation is only a preliminary study of Strabo’s narrative technique, it is clear from this analysis that Strabo views the world in all of its aspects as a coherent and knowable entity and that Strabo sees the Geography as a demonstration of this fact.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Long, Timothy
Commitee: Hansen, William F., Leach, Eleanor W., Schrempp, Gregory
School: Indiana University
Department: Classical Studies
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies
Keywords: Genre, Geography, Greece, Historia, Istoria, Myth, Mythos, Plasma, Strabo
Publication Number: 3380153
ISBN: 978-1-109-50464-4
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