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Title: Ways of seeing : a study of opsis in Herodotus' Histories
Author: Paintin, Isabel Rose Milena
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 8972
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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The thesis provides an in-depth study of ὄψις (opsis) ('seeing' or 'sight') in Herodotus' Histories. It explores both the use of opsis by Herodotus as a key source for his ἱστορίη (enquiry) and the rich and complex layers of stories involving opsis in the narrative of the text. A close analysis of autopsy statements (direct and indirect) in Herodotus' metanarrative demonstrates that these are far more numerous than scholars have hitherto realised and that he was developing a new language of autopsy to signify the use of opsis as an investigative tool. When compared with other methods of enquiry such as ἀκοὴ (hearsay) and γνώμη (opinion / judgement / reasoning), opsis clearly emerges as the most reliable of - and a check on the other - sources of evidence. Herodotus' narrative allows him to communicate a more nuanced portrayal of opsis. While some characters successfully use opsis to learn about the world or manage to manipulate it for their own ends, many misinterpret visual evidence or are deceived by what they see. Yet stories about opsis also closely parallel some of the key themes of the Histories: the rise and fall of great powers, the risks inherent in breaching boundaries and the dangers of ἔρως (desire). Herodotus uses the narrative together with the metanarrative to educate his audience on how to conduct an investigation based on opsis and shows that a certain skill and intelligence (σύνεσις) is required to succeed. This in turn forms a core part of the strongly didactic nature of the text. In his use of opsis, Herodotus was at least in part responding to contemporary debates on the value of empirical evidence for enquiry, as seen in the work of the Hippocratics and the Presocratic philosophers. However, Herodotus' innovation was to apply investigative methods based on opsis to historical material and an enquiry into past events.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available