Logographer (history)

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The logographers (from the Ancient Greek λογογράφος logográphos, a compound of λόγος lógos, here meaning "story" or "prose", and γράφω gráphō, "write") were the Greek historiographers and chroniclers before Herodotus, "the father of history". Herodotus himself called his predecessors λογοποιοί (logopoioí, from ποιέω poiéō, "to make").

Their representatives with one exception came from Ionia and its islands, and their position were most favourably situated for the acquisition of knowledge concerning the distant countries of East and West. They wrote in the Ionic dialect in what was called the unperiodic style and preserved the poetic character, if not the style, of their epic model. Their criticism amounts to nothing more than a crude attempt to rationalize the current legends and traditions connected with the founding of cities, the genealogies of ruling families, and the manners and customs of individual peoples. Of scientific criticism there is no trace whatever and so they are often called "chroniclers" rather than "historians".

The first logographer of note was Cadmus (dated to the 6th century BC), a perhaps mythical resident of Miletus, who wrote on the history of his city. Other logographers flourished from the middle of the 6th century BC until the Greco-Persian Wars; Pherecydes of Athens, who died about 400 BC, is generally considered the last. Hecataeus of Miletus (6th–5th century BC), in his Genealogiai, was the first of them to attempt (not entirely successfully) to separate the mythic past from the true historic past, which marked a crucial step in the development of genuine historiography. He is the only source that Herodotus cites by name. After Herodotus, the genre declined but regained some popularity in the Hellenistic era.

The logographers, though they worked within the same mythic tradition, were distinct from the epic poets of the Trojan War cycle because they wrote in prose, in a non-periodic style which Aristotle (Rhetoric, 1409a 29) calls λέξις εἰρομένη (léxis eiroménē, from εἴρω eírō, "attach, join up"), that is, a "continuous" or "running" style.

Famous logographers[edit]

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (On Thucydides, 5) names those who were most famous in the classical world. They are noted with an asterisk (*) in the following incomplete list of logographers:


  1. ^ *Rodríguez Mayorgas, Ana (2010), "Romulus, Aeneas and the Cultural Memory of the Roman Republic" (PDF), Athenaeum, 98 (1): 93 fn.18, retrieved 14 December 2016


  • The History of History; Shotwell, James T. (NY, Columbia University Press, 1939)
  • The Ancient Greek Historians; Bury, John Bagnell (NY, Dover Publications, 1958)

Further reading[edit]

  • Georg Busolt, Griechische Geschichte (1893), i. 147–153.
  • C. Wachsmuth, Einleitung in das Studium der alten Geschichte (1895).
  • A. Schafer, Abriss der Quellenkunde der griechischen und romischen Geschichte (ed. Heinrich Nissen, 1889).
  • J. B. Bury, Ancient Greek Historians (1909).
  • J. W. Donaldson, A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece (1858), translation of Karl Otfried Müller (ch. 18); and W. Mute (bk, iv. ch. 3).
  • C. W. Müller, Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum (1841–1870).

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Logographi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 919.