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This chapter arises out of a realisation that was articulated by many at the original colloquium: namely the realisation that the subject of dialogue in the ancient world is richly over-determined and prone to manifold interference. As a test case for thinking ‘dialogue’ in Greek prose before Plato, I take as my example one of the most famous dialogues in Greek literature: Thucydides' ‘Melian dialogue’ (History 5.85–113). In offering yet another reading of the Melian dialogue, I will suggest that both the dialogue and critical literature on the dialogue illustrate the pitfalls inherent in ‘doing dialogue’ as a comparative project in the modern academy.
INTERFERING IN DIALOGUE
The first source of interference is a lexical one: in invoking dialogue we invoke a term with a broad semantic range. The OED gives two meanings for dialogue: the primary meaning is ‘a conversation carried on between two or more persons; a colloquy, talk together’ (1a), with the additional shades of meaning ‘a verbal interchange of thought … a conversation’ (1b) and, in politics, ‘discussion or diplomatic contact between the representatives of two nations, groups or the like’ (1c). This latter usage yields the general use of dialogue to denote ‘valuable or constructive discussion or communication’. This cluster of meanings is further complicated by the secondary meaning of dialogue: (2a) ‘a literary work in the form of a conversation between two or more persons’, and (2b) ‘literary composition of this nature’.
Reading Herodotus is a 2007 text which represented a departure in Herodotean scholarship: it was the first multi-authored collection of scholarly essays to focus on a single book of Herodotus' Histories. Each chapter studies a separate logos in Book 5 and pursues two closely related lines of inquiry: first, to propose an individual thesis about the political, historical, and cultural significance of the subjects that Herodotus treats in Book 5, and second, to analyze the connections and continuities between its logos and the overarching structure of Herodotus' narrative. This collection of twelve essays by internationally renowned scholars represents an important contribution to scholarship on Herodotus and will serve as an essential research tool for all those interested in Book 5 of the Histories, the interpretation of Herodotean narrative, and the historiography of the Ionian Revolt.
This volume is devoted to the logoi of a single Book of Herodotus' Histories (Book 5). It derives from a Colloquium entitled ‘Reading Herodotus' held at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge University in July 2002. The rationale behind the Colloquium was to gather together a group of Herodotean readers to explore the texture of individual logoi, their place in the structure of Herodotus’ narrative, and their significance for interpreting the history that he offers us. To this end, each contributor undertook to focus on a logos in Book 5, examining not only its content, but also its logic and language. We hoped that the project of bringing together different readers to address the same book in concert, but with distinctive voices and guided by different logoi, would provide an apt demonstration of just how much may be required to read Herodotus in all his complexity.
When we took the decision to publish the papers that had been presented at the Colloquium, we were keen to preserve the spirit of the conference and the tone of the original papers, which varied in approach and took the kind of interpretative risks that are associated with exploratory reading and debate. We have tried to give the reader a sense of publication as conversation by throwing open our original discussions to a larger audience. To some extent this has already begun to happen in the published volume, as new voices have joined the original discussion and have opened it up in different directions.
The image of the bridge is germane to the spirit of a volume that seeks to identify and explain connections between different logoi in Herodotus' Histories. The bridges in Herodotus' work have the potential to reveal the constructedness of the narrative and the transitions between different sections within this narrative. Bridging can also represent the historical operation that twenty-first-century readers are obliged to perform as we attempt to read historically and to make connections with the work's implied audiences.
The transition between Books 4 and 5 of the Histories coincides, neatly, with the interstitial space of the Hellespont and marks a shift in subject matter as Herodotus links the acts of conquest undertaken by foreign rulers in distant lands (narrated in Books 1–4) with the extension of conquest into the Greek arena (narrated in Books 6–9). In the following discussion of chapters 23–7, I will examine how the geographical gulf of the Hellespont serves to highlight cultural gaps and differences and, as a marker that features in several significant campaigns, highlights gaps in understanding on the part of different agents in the Histories. As a symbolic space between two continents that has geographical, ethnographical, and historical significance, the Hellespont represents the kinds of repeated crossings that the reader of Herodotus has to make in order to comprehend the significance of the different dimensions of the narrative.