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Hellanicus of Lesbos

Born: fl. 5th c. BC
Birthplace: Lesbos, Greece
Died: fl. 5th c. BC
Location of death: Perperene, Greece
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Historian

Nationality: Ancient Greece
Executive summary: 5th century historian of Lesbos

Greek logographer, flourished during the latter half of the 5th century B.C. According to Su´das, he lived for some time at the court of one of the kings of Macedon, and died at Perperene, a town on the gulf of Adramyttium opposite Lesbos. Some thirty works are attributed to him -- chronological, historical and episodical. Mention may be made of: The Priestesses of Hera at Argon, a chronological compilation, arranged according to the order of succession of these functionaries; the Carneonikae, a list of the victors in the Carnean games (the chief Spartan musical festival), including notices of literary events; an Atthis, giving the history of Attica from 683 to the end of the Peloponnesian War (404), which is referred to by Thucydides (i.97), who says that he treated the events of the years 480-431 briefly and superficially, and with little regard to chronological sequence; Phoronis, chiefly genealogical, with short notices of events from the times of Phoroneus the Argive "first man" to the return of the Heraclidae; Troica and Persica, histories of Troy and Persia.

Hellanicus marks a real step in the development of historiography. He transcended the narrow local limits of the older logographers, and was not content to repeat the traditions that had gained general acceptation through the poets. He tried to give the traditions as they were locally current, and availed himself of the few national or priestly registers that presented something like contemporary registration. He endeavored to lay the foundations of a scientific chronology, based primarily on the list of the Argive priestesses of Hera, and secondarily on genealogies, lists of magistrates (e.g. the archons at Athens), and oriental dates, in place of the old reckoning by generations. But his materials were insufficient and he often had recourse to the older methods. On account of his deviations from common tradition, Hellanicus is often called an untrustworthy writer by the ancients themselves, and it is a curious fact that he appears to have made no systematic use of the many inscriptions which were ready to hand. Dionysius of Halicarnassus censures him for arranging his history, not according to the natural connection of events, but according to the locality or the nation he was describing; and undoubtedly he never, like his contemporary Herodotus, rose to the conception of a single current of events wider than the local distinction of race. His style, like that of the older logographers, was dry and bald.

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