SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
HIGHLY CUSTOMIZABLE THEME
SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
HIGHLY CUSTOMIZABLE THEME
SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
By Itidorfa07 (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped from original)
Lion of Chaeronea Statue

Abstract Details

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5/18/2019  |   11:00 AM - 11:30 AM   |  Hampton Inn Conference Room

What about the Gold-Digging Ants? The Silences and Irony of Plutarch's de Malignitate Herodoti

This project analyzes Plutarch’s de Malignitate Herodoti with an eye toward the author’s “silences,” that is, the critiques that are absent from Plutarch’s attack or those that unravel when compared to elements from Herodotus that Plutarch fails to mention. In the past the essay was not treated as serious historical criticism (e.g. Pearson 1965) or was dismissed as a spurious text due to its offensive tone (e.g. Zeigler 1951). Other scholars have compared Plutarch’s comments on Herodotus in dMH to those in his other works (Hershbell 1993) or argued that generic distinctions account for some of the discrepancies between Plutarch’s various takes on Herodotus (e.g. Pelling 1990/2002 and 2007). Recent scholarship has considered the text as a serious treatise set in the context of the Second Sophistic (Sierra 2014), or as representative of historiographic thought in Plutarch’s day (Marincola 1994 and 2017), or as an example of a diatribe marked as “intentional” history (Candau 2013). This paper argues that Plutarch’s “silences” in his criticism open the author to attack from most of the eight points of criticism which he directs at Herodotus in the opening of the treatise (855B-856D). Plutarch includes discreditable but irrelevant facts (866C-D), omits the good and the noble from his take on Herodotus (866B-C), dissembles as a Sophist when it suits him (869A-C), shows a preference for the more discreditable (863B-F and 867A), makes indirect attacks (862C-D), and mixes praise with blame to make his criticism believable (864A-B). While some of these discrepancies could arise due to the generic differences between Plutarch’s treatise and the text it analyzes, if Plutarch is held to his own standard, a fully ironic tone comes to surface that marks the treatise as a satirical account and undermines Plutarch’s often compelling critique of the “Rose-Beetle of History.”

Charles Oughton (Primary Presenter), oughton_charles@byu.edu;
Charles W. Oughton is an Asst. Professor of Classics at Brigham Young University. His work focuses on the literary methods of the Roman historians and the reception of the Greek historiographic tradition in Rome.

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