In The History of the Destruction of Troy, Dares the Phrygian boldly claimed to be an eyewitness to the Trojan War, while challenging the accounts of two of the ancient world's most canonical poets, Homer and Virgil. For over a millennium, Dares' work was circulated as the first pagan history. It promised facts and only facts about what really happened at Troy — precise casualty figures, no mention of mythical phenomena, and a claim that Troy fell when Aeneas and other Trojans betrayed their city and opened its gates to the Greeks. But for all its intrigue, the work was as fake as it was sensational. From the late antique encyclopedist Isidore of Seville to Thomas Jefferson, The First Pagan Historian offers the first comprehensive account of Dares' rise and fall as a reliable and canonical guide to the distant past. Along the way, it reconstructs the central role of forgery in longstanding debates over the nature of history, fiction, criticism, philology, and myth, from ancient Rome to the Enlightenment.
Frederic Clark is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California.
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