How to Write History

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How to Write History is the title of a study by the classical writer Lucian, which can be considered as the only work on the theory of history-writing to survive from antiquity.[1]


The first part of Lucian’s essay involved a critical attack on contemporary historians for confusing history with panagyric; overloading it with irrelevant details; and weighing it down with overblown rhetoric.[2] Instead, he recommended the virtues of clear narration, and the valorisation of truth.[3] Lucian considered that the historian should write for all times, as “a free man, fearless, incorruptible, the friend of truth”.[4]

Later influence[edit]

  • Edward Gibbon, who wrote of “the inimitable Lucian”, owned the 1776 edition of Quomodo Historia Conscribenda Sit (Oxford)[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucian and Historiography
  2. ^ S H Butcher, Harvard Lectures on Greek Subjects (London 1904) p. 249
  3. ^ M Winkler, Fall of the Roman Empire (2012) p. 181-2
  4. ^ S H Butcher, Harvard Lectures on Greek Subjects (London 1904) p. 250
  5. ^ D Marsh, Lucian and the Latins (1998) p. 29
  6. ^ E Gibbon, Abridged Decline and Fall (Penguin 2005) p. 63 and p. 782

External links[edit]

The Way to Write History