It is a topos nowadays that an author does not just construct his text but also encodes into it a narrative contract: he writes into the. text the rules by which his audience is to read it, how we are to understand his performance as author and our own responsibilities and legitimate pleasures as readers.' Judged by the standards of later historical prose, the narrative contract that Herodotus establishes between himself, the author, and ourselves, his readers, is a )eculiar one. Its rules are very odd indeed. Here I would like to explore two aspects of those rules: the construction of the narrative surface and of the authorial "I" within it. Both these aspects of Herodotus' rhetoric have generally been evaluated against the standard practices of history writing. But if we look at Herodotus' narrative surface and authorial voice on their own terms, the contract they suggest is not <at least in some essentials) a historical one. The Herodotus I would like to propose here is a heroic warrior. Like Menelaus on the sands ofEgypt, he struggles with a fearsome beast - and wins. The antagonist that Herodotus struggles with is, like many mythic beasts, a polymorphously fearsome oddity; it consists of the logos, or coUection of logoi, that comprise the narrative of the Histories. What Herodotus, like Menelaus, wants from his contest is accurate information. The Histories Herodotus has given us are the record of his heroic encounter: his exploits in capturing the logoi and his struggles to pin them down and make them speak to him the truths that they contain,"
ARETHUSA VOL. 20 (1987) 1,2
148 Carolyn Dewald
The most obvious difference between Herodotus' 'rhetoric and that of later history writing lies in the way that Herodotus writes the ongoing narrative account, the res gestae of the Histories. What becomes the standard for conventional historical narrative already appears in the work of Thucydides, writing perhaps twenty years after Herodotus. Thucydides' narrative style is often called transparent. This does not mean that the narrative has not been artfully shaped. But in Thucydides the shaping occurs in the narrative itself: the choice of nouns and verbs, the selection of significant narrative detail, the arrangement of the narrative sequence and the narrated thoughts and words of the participants in events. In Thucydides' narrative and most historical narrative after him, one event appears to lead logically to the next; as the narrative unrolls, its inner logic also becomes clear to the attentive reader.' And because Thucydides' narrative appears to generate its own shape and its own rules for how we are to read it as it goes along, it seems not only to describe res gestaebut directly and in that sense truthfully to represent them."