I recently began reading Literary Texts and the Roman Historian, by David S. Potter. He begins by quoting a letter Pliny the Younger had written to a friend:
I heard a true story, but one that seemed like fiction, and one worthy of your broad, deep, and plainly poetical genius. I heard it at a dinner party when various extraordinary stories were being passed back and forth. I trust the person who told it, although what is true to poets? Still, the person who told the story is one of whom you might think well if you were to write history.Literary Texts and the Roman Historian, page 5 (citing Pliny the Younger, 9.33.1).
What I found interesting is the distinction Pliny draws between "fiction" and "history." As Potter writes, "What is perhaps most interesting is the conceptual framework within which Pliny introduced the story. Reliability is defined in terms of dichotomy between poetry and historia, forms of narrative that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of narrative representation. Pliny's framework is worth thinking about because it rests upon two assumptions: that history will be "true" and that the expression of this "truth" will be in the form of a narrative." Id. Although ancient authors could blur the lines or fail to live up to their own standards, just as they can today, Pliny demonstrates a desire to pursue history as truth rather than as simply useful or exemplary fiction.