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The Spectation of Gyges in P. Oxy. 2382 and Herodotus Book 1

Roger Travis
Classical Antiquity
Vol. 19, No. 2 (Oct., 2000), pp. 330-359
DOI: 10.2307/25011124
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25011124
Page Count: 30
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The Spectation of Gyges in P. Oxy. 2382 and Herodotus Book 1
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Abstract

The paper argues that the act of looking, as defined between the story of Gyges, Candaules, and the offended queen and the story of Solon's visit to Lydia, functions in the first book of Herodotus, and perhaps also elsewhere throughout the Inquiry, as a metaphor for the relation of the histôr to the object of his investigation. Further, by a careful comparison of the Gyges story in Herodotus with the queen's own narration in the enigmatic "Gyges Tragedy" (P. Oxy. 2382), we can define a Herodotean psychology of spectation that bears a striking resemblance to the specifically tragic psychology manifest in the fragment. Herodotus positions his readers, the paper argues, in the place of Gyges, forcing them to look-in their imaginations-on what does not belong to them, just as the theatai in the Theater of Dionysus must look in imagination on the scene described by the queen. While the tragic audience is protected from the fate of Candaules and of Gyges' descendant Croesus by the constitutive blindness of tragedy that prevents the spectators from seeing what happens in the mukhos, Herodotus' audience must seek some other reassurance that they will not face the voyeur's penalty. This paper finally argues that Solon's theôria, with its crucial purpose of establishing the nomoi of Athens and its crucial ethic of looking not at the object of desire but at the end, installs in Herodotus' historiê the psychology of tragedy: to look desiringly is to lose, but to look inquiringly is to learn.

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