Polybius' characterisation of Hannibal. A study on personality, character and narrative identity in the Histories
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date15/03/2024
This research offers a re-evaluation of Polybius’ literary style through an analysis of his characterisations. Using narratology, psychology, and philosophy I study the depiction of Hannibal Barca to illustrate some of the complexities of Polybius’ writing technique in the Histories. My research aims to move beyond the historical analysis of the text and instead examine its literary features. I have studied the characterisation of Hannibal since he is one of the most prominent individuals in the Histories especially in the surviving books. The study of the characterisation of Hannibal will be based on the portrayal of three essential concepts, personality, character, and narrative identity as the complex of psychological features that combine innate traits with the learned behaviour and customs of the historical agents. The thesis is divided into six chapters: Chapter 1 introduces the topic and explores Polybius’ use of characterisation in books 1 and 2 (known as Prokataskeue). The emphasis here is on the stylistic and thematic differences between these first books and the main narrative of the Histories, particularly in the characterisation of significant historical figures. Chapter 2 explores Polybius’ initial characterisation of the Barcid clan (Hamilcar, Hasdrubal and Hannibal) and the central themes of the Second Punic War. Additionally, I examine the ‘inherited war’ theme to which Polybius refers on several occasions. Chapter 3 analyses emotions in the narrative of the Histories as a way of understanding the characterisation of the historical agents; particular emphasis will be placed on the relationship between emotions, character and personality as a mark of characterisation. Chapter 4 treats the use of viewpoint and focalisation to explore the interiority of the agents; I shall argue that Polybius interchanges the viewpoint and focalisation of the narrative not only to add dynamism to the narrative but also to explore the psychology of the historical agents. Chapter 5 deals with speeches and how they reflect the character and personality of the speakers. Finally, chapter 6 deals with the concept of narrative identity and how the agents define themselves based on the memories of their past experiences. Polybius’ writing has much to offer to narratological and literary studies, the object of my research is to contribute with an interdisciplinary approach to Polybian scholarship. Via a combination of narratology, philosophy and psychology I aim to shed light on the Histories as a text whose literary significance is equivalent to the historical. Polybius’ characterisations are full of enargeia, of vividness. My research hopes to illustrate how Polybius’ writing style seeks to reflect the complexities of human psychology and how it affected the history of the Mediterranean.