Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 01 December 2022

biography, Greeklocked

biography, Greeklocked

  • Christopher Pelling


1. Biography in antiquity was not a rigidly defined genre. Bios, ‘life’, or bioi, ‘lives’, could span a range of types of writing, from *Plutarch's cradle-to-grave accounts of statesmen to *Chamaeleon's extravagant stories about literary figures, and even to *Dicaearchus' ambitious Life of Greece. Consequently the boundaries with neighbouring genres—the encomium, the biographical novel on the model of *Xenophon (1)'s Cyropaedia, the historical monograph on the deeds of a great man like *Alexander (3) the Great—are blurred and sometimes artificial. One should not think of a single ‘biographical genre’ with acknowledged conventions, but rather of a complicated picture of overlapping traditions, embracing works of varying form, style, length, and truthfulness.2. The impulse to celebrate the individual finds early expression in the *dirge and the funeral oration (see epitaphios); organization of a literary work around an individual's experiences is as old as the Odyssey (see homer), and various Heracleids and Theseids seem to have treated their subjects' deeds more comprehensively.


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Greek Literature

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription