This article examines Nietzsche's notion of monumental history in “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” and considers its importance for Nietzsche's later work. In the first section, I examine the connections between monumental history and the work of Polybius, Thucydides, and Livy. Here I argue that Nietzsche takes his notion of monumental history directly from the practice of history in the ancient world. In the second section, I demonstrate that Nietzsche regards the production of illusions as the principal benefit of monumental history, while he criticizes its mendacious and conservative tendencies. Finally, I argue in the third section that the collection of characters we encounter in Nietzsche's later works—including the free spirits and the figure of Zarathustra—ought to be understood through Nietzsche's account of the uses and disadvantages of monumental history. These exemplary figures neither falsify nor glorify the past, but they remain illusions in the service of life.

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