Αἰτίη in Herodotus’ Histories: Exploring the Space between Predetermination and Free Will

Carlos Hernández Garcés
Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas
University of Oslo

Egbert Bakker’s discussion of the notion of time in the Iliad in ‘Khronos, Kleos and Ideology from Homer to Herodotus’ demonstrated that the absence of a term does not imply the absence of an idea. The scarcity of time terms in the Homeric poem, he concludes, does not imply an undeveloped notion of time, as Hermann Fränkel had posited. Indeed, in practice, the experience of time in epic manifests itself as κλέος (good repute, fame). In my paper, I explore the idea of αἰτίη (cause, responsibility) in Herodotus’ Histories as the manifestation of history’s temporality. Time’s emergence in the Histories displaces the conceptual focus from a gods’ determined temporality to man’s conscious role in time. Although the dichotomy predetermination-freed will does not occur overtly in the Histories, as it is not formalised theoretically, it pervades the text nonetheless. However, as neither predetermination nor free will accounts for historical events entirely satisfactory, Herodotus drives a wedge (αἰτίη) between them, thus opening out a new space.

Friday, May 26 at 19:00 h
on the premises of the Norwegian Institute at Athens
Tsami Karatasou 5, 5th Floor (Koukaki)