Philosophizing History: The Impact of Aristotelian Thought on Hellenistic Historiography

Name of applicant

Benjamin Pedersen


Postdoctoral Fellow


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 1,361,000



Type of grant

Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Danish Institute at Athens


This project uses innovative methods from emotion and genre studies to re-evaluate historical writing in the Hellenistic period through the lens of the intellectual achievements of Aristotle and his followers (the Peripatetics). The project will be the first to trace how Aristotelian ideas migrated into subsequent writing and how the interlinkage of philosophical innovations and historical developments changed the way history was organized and written in this crucial phase of intellectual history. The following research question guides the project: How did the formal thinking of Aristotle and the Peripatetics affect the development of historical and biographical writing in the Hellenistic period?


In recent decades, scholarship has moved away from seeing the Hellenistic period as one of decay compared with the idealized Classical period and become willing to see the period as intellectually important and innovative. This project follows this trend and carries out a much-needed investigation of how the interconnection of philosophical innovations and historical development changed the way history was understood and historiographical works were organized and written in the Hellenistic period. The project tests the hypothesis that Hellenistic historiography finds its underpinnings in Aristotelian thought and that this is manifested through 1) the thematic organization of grand scale works, 2) a focus on emotions, both of historical characters and of the reader, and 3) biographical writing.


The project investigates the influence of one of the most important philosophical schools of thought during its most poorly documented period in history. The challenge is that the writings of these authors exist only in a mediated form as references, paraphrases, and quotations by later ancient and medieval authors, so-called “fragments”. As these passages reflect the style, scope, and manner of the author, citing them more than the characteristics of the original author, I will apply a method of re-contextualization. By analyzing what the original author was responding and reacting to in his own time, the aim is to separate him from the goals and interests of the subsequent citing author.

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