HIST 2159 The First Historians (GHB) (HA-AS, HST-AS) (HEU)
Monday and Wednesday: 7:30-8:45 pm
Professor Olga Litvak
In European history, the Greeks tend to get credit for inventing almost everything – philosophy, art, literature, science, democracy. Naturally, they also get credit for inventing history. The names Thucydides and Herodotus are invariably invoked when historians talk about the origins of their discipline. Actually, Thucydides and Herodotus came late to the party; the first historians were Jewish scribes, living in Persian exile in the seventh century BCE, some two hundred years before their Greek successors. Collectively known as “the Deuteronomists,” these scribes, on the basis of extensive data from royal archives, wrote a history of the domestic disintegration and eventual destruction of their city-state (Jerusalem) by an imperial army of northern barbarians (the Babylonians) who burned their most important cultural institution (the Temple) to the ground. Preceded by a methodological prologue that set out their principles of inquiry (also known as the biblical book of Deuteronomy) the bulk of their multi-volume account (Joshua-Kings II) consists of a richly documented and well-crafted narrative detailing the causes, long-term and short-term, of this political catastrophe. If you take this seminar, you will find out what the Deuteronomists wrote and why their work is important even for non-historians.