Is History an art or science

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Question description


History is not merely the collection of facts. We can learn much about a people from their myths, which tell us about a people's sense of morality and the forces they believed worked on their lives. But history is different, and can be gleaned from scientific examinations (such as those done by archeologists, anthropologists, forensics researchers, and archeo-biologists), observations made by social scientists (studies by sociologists, economists, geographers), and interpretation of a culture's artistic accomplishments by experts in those areas. Comprehensive history is at its best when it draws from all these sources. The artistic part of history lay in the way it is conveyed to others, in the prose, writing, presentation, etc.

As you have read in Duiker, The Greeks created history as we have come to understand the term. Indeed the word history comes from the Greek word for inquiry. As was summarized by scholar R.G. Collingwood, "Greek history is not legend [or myth, like the work of Homer], but research." Greek historical writing is not driven by religion or religious dogma, but on the actions taken by human activity. The period described by Greek historians was known and dated by the Greeks themselves, and did not exist in some "dateless past." (R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, 18, 1946, revised edition 1993). Once one has examined the evidence (in a rational, "scientific" manner), then the art is in the telling or conveying your understanding and interpretation of the significance of the evidence. In that way history is both scientific and artistic--it straddles the humanities and the social sciences.


  1. Based upon what you have read about Herodotus and Thucydides--their aims and their methods--think about what we have learned about the Greeks, their accomplishments and what remains of these. Consider too all the various tools used to teach you about Greek history as it was presented to you Duiker and by Andrea.
  2. Now you will engage in a debate by posting a discussion set. One major post and three peer responses. To begin, select two examples from the types of evidence below that come from the two textbooks and the eCore online material. To avoid redundancy you may not choose the same two listed items as one of your classmates for you major post. Your major post should be at least 3-4 paragraphs in length and should describe how one can use scientific and artistic approachs to explain the significance of the items to understand the ancient Greeks and to write a history of the Greeks. Cite all your sources in Turabian format.   
  3. You will then respond to two of your classmates by building on what they said by adding a pertinent historical point. Do not repeat the same historical considerations. Cite all your sources in Turabian format.               

Type of evidence

Images of material artifacts, sculptures, ruins, recreations of ancient ships, etc. 

Type of evidence

Primary sources of Greek writing found in Duiker

  • Bust of Pericles or other important Greeks you may find in the sites recommended for the unit.
  • Maycenaean Death Mask 
  • The Slaying of Hector--5th century BCE, Grecian vase--or other images from such vases you may find in the sites recommended for the unit. 
  • Hoplite Forces--7th C. BCE vase painting 
  • Kouros sculpture
  • trireme-bas relief and Greek naval reconstruction
  • Parthenon ruins--and images of other famous Greek ruins.
  • The architectural orders as illustrated in Duiker.
  • Doryphoros--The Spear Carrier-statue
  • Mosaic from Pompeii of Greek philosophers at Plato's school.
  • Women in the loom room vase--Metropolitan Museum
  • Alexander the Great-marble bust--second or first century BCE
  • Four Hellenistic Sculptures--from Andrea, The Human Record
  • Homer's idea of excellence
  • Lycurgean Reforms, as described by Plutarch
  • Athenian Democracy: The Funeral Oration of Pericles, Thucydides
  • Lysistrata, Aristophanes
  • Oeconomicus, Xenophon
  • Constitution of the Spartans, Xenophon
  • Politics (excerpt), Aristotle
  • Lycurgus, Plutarch
  • The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian
  • Letter from Isias to Hepahaiston, 168 BCE
  • Letter from Ktesikles to King Ptolemy, 220 BCE

*sources must be cited*

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(Top Tutor) Daniel C.
School: Cornell University
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