Historiographical approaches and historical causation in particular are nowadays considered important tools of understanding and interpreting narratives and accounts of the past. It is clear that in each epoch and under each polity, there existed a set of beliefs, values and convictions, which can be viewed as a lens through which the narratives are presented by historians who lived long before the present generation.
The two major perspectives on historical causation, the substantive and the analytical, can be found in the ancient scripture including the Book of Genesis, Herodotus’s “History” and Thucydides’s “History of the Peloponnesian War”. First of all, Herodotus’s writings were deisgned exceptionally to record wonderful deeds and interesting events, i. e. he took a substantive approach to the development of historical documents.
The “father of history” obviously preferred a free style of narrating, which allowed him to shift between time periods and geographic locations, but this andom style itself can be viewed as a means of maintaining and expanding the main themes of “History”. For instance, his first book contains a story about Gyges and Candaules. In order to demonstrate to Gyges, the servant, that his own wife is the most beautiful woman in the Universe, Candaules created a situation in which the servant saw her undressing.
The woman definitely did not accept the situation and proposed that Gyges dethroned Candaules and even helped the servant in this undertaking. The most illustrative, in the context of the story, is the following Gyges’s advice: “From olden times that which is good has been sought out by men, and it is necessary to learn from them. Among these things is this one: for each man to look to the things of himself” (Herodotus, I, par. 8). Therefore, the first indirect implication of historical causation is the observance of time-honored social norms so that the ill outcome takes place in case of the abuse of the existing morality.
In fact, given the harshness of the contemporary living conditions and the frequency of military conflicts, which took thousands human lives, there was a need for a common “convention”, or ethical code which would maximize people’s chances for survival and allow “filtering out” the deviants, criminals and all those who could become a social hazard. Therefore, the importance of well-established, commonly known “code of conduct” was a critical aspect of the population’s endurance and resistance.
The second aspect of historical causation, observed by Herodotus, is fate, or deities’ choice concerning each specific person. For instance, in the narrative about King Croesus, Solon, punished for stating the deceased Greeks were more lucky than the king, justifies himself in the following way: “Croesus, you ask this of me, who knows that the divine is entirely jealous and unpredictable concerning the affairs of men […] For many indeed, the gods, having shown them happiness, ruins them utterly” (Herodotus, I, par. 2).
Interpreting the “divinities’ jealousy” into more objective terms, one can assume that it refers to human carelessness. Given the abovementioned unsafe living conditions, ancient Greeks were supposed to remain cautious, and, given that Croesus was chastised for considering himself “fortunate”, it is possible to conclude that the second aspect of historical causation as articulated by Herodotus was a degree of common sense and recklessness in each intention or effort.
Similarly to Herodotus’s “History”, the sacred Book of Genesis implies historical causation is associated with covenants; but whereas Herodotus narrates mainly about the common social agreements like moral norms, the religious scripture implies the mutual promises in the relations between God and humanity.
For instance, in the narrative about the destiny of Adam and Eve, God allegedly created extremely favorable living conditions for the couple and promised them eternal happiness unless they ate the fruits from the tree of knowledge. The couple showed no oral disagreement, but, tempted by the serpent, the woman broke the covenant and persuaded her spouse to try the fruit (Genesis, 3). God’s response was directly related to the distribution of responsibility for the “transgression”, e. . given that Eve provoked her husband, she became “inferior”: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thy shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis, 3. 16). In the story about Abraham, on the contrary, God seemed to reward the compliant man, who believed in the positive outcome of following the agreements with the supernatural force.
Abraham received knowledge about the future of his children as well as the status of patriarch, or founder of a powerful nation: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis,15. 18). Thucydides in his “History of the Peloponnesian War”, as opposed to the first two writings, goes beyond cataloguing the events and provides a direct and clear analysis of conditions, which led to the development of the situation.
It is also important to note that the scholar addressed only those events, which he witnessed by himself. In his discussion of the causes of the war between Athens and Sparta, the scholar addresses multiple factors like the gradual removal of all threats around Athens (including pirates and aggressive tribes), which led to the expansion of the empire, favorable geographic situation, successful leadership and so forth (Thycydides, 1. -2). However, in his further account of the conception of the military outrage, it becomes increasingly more evident that he refers to the abandonment of the ethical norms in internal and foreign relations and the establishment of tyranny in Athens, which, to his view, resulted in overestimation of Athenian might by the local leaders and finally in such a devastating 27-year armed conflict.
As one can conclude the common point, which can be found in the observations about historical causation of the three above discussed texts is the relationship between the principles of coexistence among humans (or between humankind and supernatural forces) and the broader political and economic outcomes like international confrontations, revolutions or radical changes of living conditions. However, Thucydides’s account also contains pertinent arguments about baseline determinsnts and those advantages and weaknesses that contributed to the situation during its development and which could be viewed apart from the pure “human factor”.