The Other’s portrait and historical truth in classical authors and Portuguese 16th Century chroniclers

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A portrait of the Other can be seen throughout the literature of classical antiquity, from Homer to the Roman authors, in an implicit awareness that identity cannot exist without alterity. This is a core question in the Iliad, in the conflict that pitted Greeks against Trojans. It is also a recurring subject in the Odyssey, in the Other’s (Ulysses’) wanderings, from Troy to his return to Ithaca. The quest for the Golden Fleece also contemplates the confrontation between Argonauts and the arrival to Colchis. This issue is taken up in Greek historiography with Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, but now with a focus on historical truth, with the internal conflict between Athenians and Spartans (Thucydides) and the external conflict between Athenians and Persians (Herodotus, Xenophon).
In the same way that Virgil directs his attention to Carthage and Queen Dido in his epic poem the Aeneid, foreseeing a future conflict, the Punic Wars, Roman historiography, with Titus Livius, Sallust, and Julius Caesar’s memoirs of the conquest of Gaul, dedicate particular attention to the portrait of the Other as a counterpoint to the awareness of identity.
Historical truth, in terms of heuristics (documentum) and exemplary Ciceronian pedagogy (monumentum), is, on the other hand, the main concern of Roman historiography, as a favored form of civic intervention to attain a national identity (res romana).
Having inherited this methodological approach from Classical Antiquity, 16th century Portuguese chroniclers like João de Barros, Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, Gaspar Correia and Diogo do Couto, and others, link historiography sources to the issue of national identity and alterity.
The objective of this paper is to examine how the 16th century Portuguese chroniclers assimilated Classical Antiquity, in an explicit and implicit way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages12
JournalRes Antiquitatis. Journal of Ancient History
Volume2nd series
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventThe International Conference Sources to Study Antiquity: Between Texts and Material Culture - NOVA FCSH, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 9 May 201610 May 2016


  • alterity
  • identity
  • sources
  • historical truth
  • exemplary pedagogy


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