Did ideal Greco-Roman historiography strive to relay info from involved witnesses who ‘saw it all’?
Grant that biographies at this time strove to relay 1st hand witness-testimony. Did they moreover strive to relay testimony from witnesses who saw everything from the beginning (i.e. those who also saw all the potentially relevant context)?
- Richard Bauckham: “[There is a] historiographic principle that the most authoritative eyewitness is one who was present at the events narrated from their beginning to their end and can therefore vouch for the overall shape of the story as well as for specific key events.” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006), 146.]
Historians boasted of seeing it all “from the beginning”
In addition to boasting about witnessing part or much of an event,1 historians were especially quick to boast if they essentially saw it all from the beginning.
- Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD): “I, on the other hand, have written a truthful account of the whole war [My insert: i.e. from the beginning] and its individual details, having been present myself at all the events [My insert: i.e. having seen it all]… was not unacquainted with any thing whatsoever that was either said or done in it [Against Apion (1.9) 1.47-50]
- Thucydides (460-400 BC): “For I well remember how, from the beginning to the end of the war… I lived through the whole of it, being of mature years and judgment, and I took great pains to make out the exact truth. …associating with both sides, with the Peloponnesians quite as much as with the Athenians… I will now proceed to narrate… the events of the war which followed.” [History of the Peloponnesian War 5.26]
This is relevant because, if having “seen it all” was cause for boasting from historians, then witnesses who “saw it all” were especially valued by them. We might expect from this value that historians would’ve then exerted some effort to acquire such testimony directly themselves or through direct witnesses.
“From the beginning” is a historiography-implying phrase
The phrase (e.g. “eyewitnesses from the beginning”) functions as a technical term frequently employed to donate historiographic intentions.
This page analyzes one kind of evidence…
- Examples of historians using this lingo abound.
This is relevant because the reason this phrase was associated with historiography is that it was considered important, as far as possible, to use witnesses who “saw the whole thing.”
Ancient history didn’t strive to relay witness-testimony
1st-2nd century historiographers did not strive to ground their material in witness approval directly nor nearly directly. See here.