Roman history originated and unfolded from intensive contact with the Greek culture. This contact was necessitated by the expansion of the Roman Empire and extension of Roman diplomacy and army. The constant contact between the Romans and the Greek assimilated and completely induced them to Greek literature and art. Several aspects of Greek culture originated from Rome and straight from the services of Greek speaking slaves. There existed private tutors in the household of the rich and wealthy class who were hired to teach culture. Roman history copy a lot from the Greeks but they had their own models that could inspire their historiography. According to the Romans and the Greeks, narratives of history could not be subjected to scholarly inquiry and their understanding lied on ancient literature.

The historiography context of the Romans is quite distinct from the Greek one (Anon, n.d.)

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Oral Tradition

The Greek historiography began with oral tradition whereas that of the Romans was based on annals and pontifex maximus which were recorded. The annals maximi contained a lot of information like religious documents, names of consuls and death of priests and all the disasters which happened throughout history. An example of annals maximi was the tabulae albatae which carried information about the origin of the republic. The founder of the roman historiography was Quintas Fabius Pictor (O’Brien, 2006).

The historical inquiry of the Romans followed two main traditions: the annalistic tradition and the monographic tradition. In the Roman Empire, two languages were employed: Latin and Greek. Several historical writers of both Greek and Roman emerged from the circles which were defined as senatorial or equestrian depending on their political or administrative functions. There was a formulaic basis in republican Rome which formed a basis of historical composition. The previous or past events were narrated in line with annual consulship which was the highest political office in Rome (Mehl, 2006).


Romans considered the chronological principle as fundamental and they could modify and refine depending on thematic considerations. Their narratives were characterized by the annalistic principle and it was measured in annus which was equivalent to a year in Latin. Traditionally, historiography is closely linked with ethnography and did not only dwell on the Greek history but also history of other people. The Greeks were not united as a state and hence it was difficult to narrate the past of a political state so it was only the history of individual states that was narrated.

In Greek, historians used chronicles which was ascribed to mythical authors and later edited by men. They applied logographi which carried information beyond written record. The Christian historiography eroded the ideals of the past and it was spearheaded by Eusebius of Caesarea. Christianity superseded paganism. The Christian historians applied chronicles as their mode of historical inquiry (O’Brien, 2006).

The Muse

Roman history can be understood based on the geographical and historical principles.

The first form of writing by the Romans was in Latin. The Greeks assigned Clio which is one of the Muses. According to them, Muses brought joy and were meant to teach and entertain.

They valued pressure and instructions. Muse was an artful skill and it consisted of a language and world of sounds. It carried a lot of value and attachment easily attached to the literary works in antiquity. It is historically noticed that in Roman history there are eight genres and the most conspicuous one was the one represented epic in prose. The drama with Roman history is that just like how one finds in historical narratives, the sequence and serious events have been composed in line with the climax called peripeteia which means the reversal of fortune and catastrophe (Mehl, 2011).


The writings of Greek historians are heavily latent with speeches; this implies that it cannot be delivered in the original form of how it was reported. In this context there existed no handouts aimed at describing the contents.

Also in references to speeches, the historians used their own languages and never used that of the speakers. Speeches played crucial part in the historical work and lack of handout meant that there was no accurate representation of what it was said but what was put down by the historians in form of recorded speeches was considered a fundamental part of historical inquiry. The speeches were a reflection of the background and an explanation of the characters, motives and the objectives of the core participants. The speeches form a good historical picture and the origins of the speech lied in Homeric epic (Grant, 1995).


The Jews and Christian historiographers utilized providential narratives starting with history of creation. These narratives mattered because they hinted at something important in the future and demonstrated connectedness. Following the history of the French revolution and colonization in Africa and Asia, the Romans and the European historians published narratives which resituated the place of Europe in world history. The Greek cultures, religion and politics were presented and preserved in the form of narratives.

Historical inquiry of the Greek was characterized by several dynamics; intellectual revolution has opened up a new wave of energy into the field of historical inquiry. In the ancient Greece, historical writings were in the form of traditional poems. People wrote about the problems that afflict human existence in poem form before the art of recording was realized. Poetry treated an epic theme and it was also used to recount the deeds of heroes. The use of poetry was criticized by Thucydides when he argued that poetry was not perfect medium that can be used to transmit reality since it was bound to exaggerate the history (Breisach, 2007). Homeric epics were considered by the Greeks as fascinating and useful tool of history. It was particularly aimed at educating the youth. The artistic creations of the epic influenced historical inquiry in Greek.

The artistic impressions of the gods, languages and heroes created an impression and appreciation of the past. In the context of speech and poems, they enhanced reverence to the listeners and it created memories and records of the past and acted as the connections to the past (Breisach, 2007).


The Greek, Roman and Christian historiography utilized several modes of historical inquiry which included narratives, chronicles, poems and speeches. Though they varied based on their originators and how history was preserved, they shared the above tools of historical inquiry.

Christian history was preceded by the period of intellectual revolution and it marked the beginning of better approaches to historiography. Poetry and speeches were considered instrumental, the bards recited about past tales through rhythmic speech which followed strict patterns.




Ancient Literature and Roman Historiography. Retrieved on 19/09/2011 from: http://media.wiley.

com/product_data/excerpt/31/14051218/1405121831-24.pdf Breisach, E. (2007). Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (3rd Ed.).

Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. Grant, M. (1995). The Greek and roman historians. New York, NY: Routledge.

Mehl, A. (2011). Roman Historiography: An Introduction to its Basic Aspects and Development (1st ed). New York, NY: Blackwell publishing limited O’Brien, P. (2006). Historiographical traditions and modern imperatives for the restoration of global history. Journal of Global History vol. 1, pp 3–39 .

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