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Emotion and Reason in Constructing a Historical Narrative: Polybius' Strategy of Reader's Moral Engagement.

Subject and Keywords:

historical narratives   narrative strategy   emotions   morality   reader’s perspective   Polybius


The article investigates Polybius’ of Megalopolis conception of emotional response of the reader of a historical narrative, and exploresthe implications of that conception for the structure of selected parts of the Histories. The argument falls into three parts. First, Polybius’ focus on two particular emotions (pity and anger), the notionsof the reasons and purposes, and the implications of their moral qualification are analyzed. The narrative strategy of Polybius is put into theory on the basis of his methodological considerations scattered around the Histories (Pol. 2.56.13; 16; 3.6.73; 31.7–11). In the second part the theory is verified on a sample of an account from the Histories about the preliminaries to the Hannibalic War (Pol. 3.9–33). Itis demonstrated how the strategy of evoking appropriate emotions influences shaping of the narrative of the antecedent events of the War, and how anger and pity, as the pivotal feelings, drive the actions of both the sides of the story, i.e. the Romans and the Carthaginians.The chronological shifts, the position and the emphasis on particularelements in the narrative, plus Polybius’ interventions into it, are explained in terms of the expected emotional and moral impact ofthe scrutinized text on the prospective recipient. Further, it is argued that in Polybius the idea of the emotional component guiding human choices and actions combined with the expected emotional impactof the narrative on the reader provide the main lines for structuring the account. In this context, it is stressed that Polybius advocatesan ethical rather than purely emotional, long-lasting rather than momentary effect of a historical narrative. The last part of the paper discusses the tradition in which such strategy should be situated. Marincola’s reading in terms of judicial rhetoric is questioned, and theoriginality of Polybius’ conception, taking the probable expectations of average readers into account, is put forward.





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Detailed Type:

czasopisma (wydawnictwa ciągłe)


ISSN 2449–8181



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Copyright by Instytut Studiów Klasycznych, Sródziemnomorskich i Orientalnych, Pracowania Badan nad Tradycja Oralna, 2016