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Classical Olbia and the Scythian WorldFrom the Sixth Century BC to the Second Century AD$
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David Braund and S D Kryzhitskiy

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264041

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264041.001.0001

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Herodotus and Olbia1

Herodotus and Olbia1

(p.79) Herodotus and Olbia1
Classical Olbia and the Scythian World


British Academy

This chapter discusses Herodotus's account of Olbia. Whilst he was forthcoming about his visit and experiences in the Egyptian Thebes, Herodotus did not claim to see Olbia firsthand. And although he had seen Olbia for himself, he did not say so in plain terms. Although Olbia was very central to Herodotus's account of Scythia, his description and narrative of Olbia was rather limited. Olbia nonetheless received more attention from Herodotus compared to other Greek communities, however Olbia was peripheral to his interests. His avoidance of the city's official and designated name which was preferred by the citizens is not insignificant. His avoidance of the official name implied his manner of underplaying the importance of the place as a channel through which most of his Scythian information came. His accounts of the Scythian ethnography more than as results of long years of patient fieldwork were the results of information collected unsystematically as seen in his disordered presentation of the geographical and ethnographical information of Olbia. His accounts of the Scythian conservatism and resistance to foreign influence was out of convenience, allaying qualms about combining items of information gathered over time, but was not altogether borne out by his narrative. Unable to claim direct access to native Scythian informants on their own ground, he was not keen to advertise the derivative quality of his material, and close attention of the Olbiopolitai might have exposed what he wanted to camouflage.

Keywords:   Herodotus, account, narrative, Olbia, Scythia, Scythian ethnography, Scythian conservatism, Scythian resistance, native Scythian informants, Olbiopolitai

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