While Roman historians tended to focus on local Roman history, which didn’t require travel, Hellenistic historians would travel for several years gathering information in preparation for writing their historical work; field work was expected.
• Historians tended to get witness approval or close.
The writings are glaringly academic; they eloquently pack in a density of details which would have taken work to secure.
• The works abound with accurate names, titles, events, circulating traditions/myths associated with certain peoples attitudes, relations, political minutia, name-places, dates etc., a vaste number of which are confirmed or virtually confirmed. [Forthcoming]
Often enough, historians explicitly say or imply that real labor was required to step into the role of a historian.
• Titus Livius [Livy] (59-17 AD): “If any way would lead one's inquiry to the truth, industry would not be wanting:
• Flavius Josephus: [Harshly criticizing another self-proclaimed historian] “For you neither chanced to be involved in the war nor did you read the field notes of Caesar. [Life of Josephus 356-359](Trans by Mason, Brill, 2001).
• Lucian of Samosata (125-180+): “Facts are not to be collected at haphazard, but with careful, laborious, repeated investigation [How to Write History 47]; “[Historians] should prefer the disinterested account, selecting the informants least likely to diminish or magnify from partiality. And here comes the occasion for exercising the judgement in weighing probabilities.” [How to Write History 47]
• Dionysius of Halicarnassus (60 BC-7 AD+): “…particularly those who write histories, … ought,… with great care and pains, to provide themselves with the proper equipment for the treatment of their subject.” [Roman Antiquities 1.1.2]2
• Historians imply that their work requires travel[!] and laboring to consult witnesses[!] (see inside articles below)
• Historians say “critically examining” is essential[!], which would’ve taken labor.
The very Greek word associated with the labor of a Herodotus and a Polybius—ἱστορία—carried within it the notion of seriously hard work.
• By Polybius’s time (200-118 BC) it meant laboring specifically to study the past.2
A number of historians explicitly testify that they put in significant work and effort in order to fulfill their duties as an historian.
• Thucydides (460-400 BC): “I have described nothing but what I either saw myself, or learned from others of whom I made the most careful and particular enquiry.” [History of the Peloponnesian War 1.22.2]2; “I took great pains to make out the exact truth.” [History of the Peloponnesian War 5.26]
• Polybius (200-118 BC): “…and we see that generally the task of investigation has been entirely scamped by him [Timaeus], and this is the most important part of history.” [Histories 12.4c.3; cf. 12.4c.1–5.] ; “In the same fashion systematic history too consists of, …industrious study of memoirs and other documents,…;” [Histories 12.25e.1]
• Diodorus Siculus (1-100 AD?): “…all men should ever accord great gratitude to those writers who have composed universal histories, since they have aspired to help [all] by their individual labours…” [Library of History 1.1.1-2]; “…an undertaking of this nature… would yet require much labour and time, have been engaged upon it for thirty years, and with much hardship and many dangers we have visited a large portion of both Asia and Europe that we might see with our own eyes all the most important regions and as many others as possible; … [Our resources were] enthusiasm for the work which enables every man to bring to completion the task which seems impossible, [and Roman records etc.]3 [Library of History 1.4.1-2]
• Luke (1-100 AD?): “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated [My insert: comprehended] everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” [Luke 1:1-4]
Polybius extensively critiques Timaeus in the severest of words, many of which focus on his being incredibly lazy as a historian (failing to fulfill the historian’s basic story).
• Charles Fornara: “[Polybius's] polemic against Timaeus, by our standards and indefatigable and enterprising scholar, is revealing. Not only did he deride this ‘armchair’ historian for priding himself on the pains he took to collect books on the customs of Ligurians, Celts, and Iberians (12.28a.3); he even sneered (12.27.4-6) that Timaeus chose Athens as his place of residence because it possessed a good library …” [The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome (1983, University of California Press), 48.]
Agatharchides of Cnidus testified that his old age would prevent him from completing his history.
Diodorus Siciulus made an incidental comment that often enough histories were not completed because the historians would in fact die before completing their work.
Ideal Greco-Roman historiographers worked hard to relay honest witness testimony, and in their eyes: the more direct/1st hand the testimony was, the better it was.
• Histories DID get witness approval and/or close.
• Historians oft say “witness testimony only!”
• Lying historiographers pretended to be or use witnesses.
• Ancients prize testimony being 1st hand as possible.
• Greco-Roman histories self-claim to be true.
• Ancients strove to echo “from beginning” witnesses.
Greco-Roman historiographers were not particularly discerning; they rarely critically evaluated their sources and the claims those sources made.
• E.g. Diodorus’ history is full of myth.
• Ancient histories were flexible with side details.
• Socrates was fictionalized.