The “Histories” of Ephorus

Bryan M Hudak, University of Pennsylvania


Ephorus of Cyme, a Greek historian of the fourth century BC, is best known for his thirty-book Histories, which treated the Hellenic world from the end of the mythological age down to his own day. Despite its considerable historiographical importance, the text has only survived in fragments cited by other authors. Remarkably, Barber's 1935 work is the last monograph devoted entirely to Ephorus; as such, a new treatment is needed. In the last several generations, there has been a tremendous reluctance to question some of our most basic assumptions about Ephorus, particularly his motives for writing history as well as his personal perspectives on culture and politics. Since his work exists in fragmentary form, we must treat its individual remains on a case-by-case basis. In addition, this survey will determine that the Greek history sections of books eleven through fifteen of Diodorus' Bibliotheca preserve the course of events from the Histories. An investigation into Ephorus' use of sources will find that he employed virtually every available text known to us with the exception of Xenophon's Hellenica. In fact, the Histories contradict the Xenophonic narrative on numerous occasions. This and many other authorial decisions have been credited to his supposed apprenticeship to Isocrates and his promulgation of "rhetorical history." This historiographical technique would have focused on style and moralization as opposed to historical accuracy and original analysis. We will find, however, that the tradition of his Isocratean education is spurious; Ephorus neither accepted a historical model from Isocrates nor endorsed his political or cultural positions. As such, Ephorus did not disseminate a pro-Athenian view of history out of deference to his master or employ praise and blame for the principal purpose of moralizing. Rather, his text was influenced by the author's sense of local perspective focused on the Aeolid and his native Cyme. This viewpoint led Ephorus to condemn the Spartan offenses committed against his homeland during his lifetime and demanded that his narrative reject the pro-Lacedaemonian account of Xenophon's Hellenica.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Ancient history

Recommended Citation

Hudak, Bryan M, "The “Histories” of Ephorus" (2009). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3381623.