The parochialism and patriotism evident in many fragments of Greek local historiography suggest that local historians considered one of their principal audiences to have been the focal community itself. This is the underlying contention of Jacoby (1949), who saw Atthidography as a means by which members of the Athenian elite legitimized for their peers their own political beliefs, and a similar claim can be made about the peculiar form of Spartan local historiography (the Politeiai). Comparative, non-fragmentary, evidence (Livy, as well as local histories of e.g. Quattrocento Florence and Stuart England) confirms the primary role given by local historians to the local audience. The enthusiasm with which Greek communities honored their local historians (Chaniotis 1988), moreover, indicates that these texts were indeed consumed by the local communities (ultimate readership, of course, is a different matter: see Momigliano 1978, Malitz 1990, and Clarke 2008 for general remarks). It is striking, then, that many of our fragments of Greek local historiography imply a non-local audience. I argue that the construction of an external narrative audience, in particular by native local historians, is central to the task of local historiography. By focusing on this narrative strategy, I contend, we can better understand the origins of local historiography in Greece and the important influence of ethnography.
In the first part of this paper, I examine a selection of verbatim fragments that contain static descriptions of the local community. I consider both topographical and religious material, drawing on passages from the Atthides of Kleidemos (FGrHist 323 F1) and Philokhoros (FGrHist 328 F67), the Argolika of Deinias (FGrHist 306 F3), and the Deliaka of Semos (FGrHist 396 FF4-5). In all of these fragments, a native historian imparts information presumably well known to the focal community, and he does so from the perspective of an outsider. I then outline other ways in which local historians characterize their audience as external (e.g. the synchronization of epichoric with unmarked systems of dating and the avoidance of local dialect). In this context, I address a seemingly anomalous text: the Argolika of Derkylos, which employs aspects of the Doric dialect (FGrHist 305 T2 and F4; see Cassio 1989).
In the second part of my paper, I emphasize that a narrator could very well communicate facts about his own community directly to his peers. In the epitaphios logos, for example, an Athenian orator transmitted historical and cultural topoi expressly to his countrymen; and several Platonic dialogues (the Republic, Symposium, and Lysis) open with topographical excursus aimed at an audience familiar with the terrain. Despite this narrative option, however, it was the habit of Greek historians to convey information, even about their native communities, from the perspective of an outsider (Fowler 2001). A good example is Thucydides’ treatment of Athenian topography (e.g. 2.15 and 8.67.2) and practice (e.g.1.126.6 and 6.27), for which see Pearson 1942, Bearzot 2001, and Goldhill 2010. In orientation, then, local texts aligned themselves with historiography, not with other modes of remembering, like the funeral oration (contra Porciani 2001). The impetus for such a stance, I argue by way of Herodotus and Hellanikos, was the ethnological impulse. A community may very well tell stories about itself to help articulate its identity, just as it constructs a narrative of its past with present conditions in mind (see Gehrke 2001 on intentionale Geschichte). But local historiography is not the mere assemblage of local tradition; Greek local historiography adopted, in a Herodotean gesture, the ethnological approach that was itself at the root of the historiographical enterprise. The posture of the native local historian therefore implies an audience that extends beyond, and in fact excludes, his own community; and this in turn designates the focal community as an object of interest and import to the greater Greek world.