Portret Herodota w świetle traktatu De Herodoti malignitate Plutarcha z Cheronei


  • Anna Marchewka




Plutarch, Herodotus, truth, liar, malice, moralist


Portrait of Herodotus in the light of Plutarch’s treatise De Herodoti malignitate: As a Platonist and moralist Plutarch paid particular attention truth. No wonder that in his reference to Herodotus’ Histories he took into consideration the issue of historical truth, which was for him very important — both in its ethical as well as didactic aspect. In his De Herodoti malignitate the Chaeronean moralist is concerned with truth as well as with offering moral uplift. Plutarch presents Herodotus as a perfidious liar who falsely presented such famous and heroic Greeks as Miltiades, Leonidas, Themistocles or Pausanias and — above all — depreciatingly treated the Boeotians and Corinthians. Moreover, Plutarch accuses the historian of Halicarnassus of being malicious (κακοήθεια). For him Herodotus’ lies were deliberate and slandering. Herodotus was also a blasphemer, a pro-barbarian historian; a man who disregarded women. Finally, we get the Plutarchan portrait of Herodotus himself as a blunt barbarian (ὁ ἔσχατος Καρῶν). Such a presentation of Herodotus seems to attest to Plutarch’s own prejudices, if not wickedness. By the same, however, one must take into consideration the literary tradition in which the whole treatise is rooted. So De Herodoti malignitate contains features of historical polemics and is an example of judicial rhetoric, in which the biographer attempts at persuading his readers that his charges against Herodotus are well justified. The treatise is a work representing the new intellectual trend, the so-called Second Sophistic; a polemic written in a period when the Greek intellectuals were deeply engaged in taking issues with past writers. Moreover, a fundamental aspect of De Herodoti malignitate should be taken into account — truth which is analyzed from a moral and psychological perspective. Although a leading motif of the treatise is truthfulness, the direct subject-matter of Plutarch’s considerations remains a lie, or — to put it exactly — lying. Accordingly, the Boeotian moralist singles out and analyses all the fundamental forms of lying. A suitable interpretation of the treatise De Herodoti malignitate depends thus on our knowledge of the cultural distance between Herodotus and Plutarch, although both authors were the representatives of Greek prosa.