Herodotus (/hɪˈrɒdətəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἡρόδοτος,
Attic Greek pronunciation: [hɛː.ró.do.tos]) was a
Greek historian who was born in
Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire
(modern-day Bodrum, Turkey) and lived in the fifth century BC (c.
484–c. 425 BC), a contemporary of Thucydides, Socrates, and
Euripides. He is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title
first conferred by Cicero; he was the first historian known to have
broken from Homeric tradition to treat historical subjects as a method
of investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials
systematically and critically, and then arranging them into a
The Histories is the only work which he is known to have produced, a
record of his "inquiry" (ἱστορία historía) on the origins of
the Greco-Persian Wars; it primarily deals with the lives of Croesus,
Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius, and Xerxes and the battles of
Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale;
however, its many cultural, ethnographical, geographical,
historiographical, and other digressions form a defining and essential
part of the Histories and contain a wealth of information. Some of his
stories are fanciful and others inaccurate, yet he states that he is
reporting only what he was told; a sizable portion of the information
he provided was later confirmed by historians and archaeologists.
Despite Herodotus's historical significance, little is known of his
1 Place in history
1.2 Writing style
1.3 Contemporary and modern critics
2.2 Early travels
2.3 Later life
2.4 Author and orator
3.3 Accusations of bias
3.4 Herodotus's use of sources and sense of authority
4 Mode of explanation
4.1 Types of causality
Herodotus and myth
6 See also
7 Critical editions
11 Further reading
12 External links
Place in history
Herodotus announced the purpose and scope of his work at the beginning
of his Histories[a] as such:
Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus
of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events
from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important
and remarkable achievements produced by both
Greeks and non-Greeks;
among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the
Greeks and non-Greeks.
— Herodotus, The Histories
Robin Waterfield translation (2008)
His record of the achievements of others was an achievement in itself,
though the extent of it has been debated. Herodotus's place in history
and his significance may be understood according to the traditions
within which he worked. His work is the earliest Greek prose to have
survived intact. However, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a literary
critic of Augustan Rome, listed seven predecessors of Herodotus,
describing their works as simple, unadorned accounts of their own and
other cities and people, Greek or foreign, including popular legends,
sometimes melodramatic and naïve, often charming – all traits that
can be found in the work of
Modern historians regard the chronology as uncertain, but according to
the ancient account, these predecessors included Dionysius of Miletus,
Charon of Lampsacus, Hellanicus of Lesbos,
Xanthus of Lydia and, the
best attested of them all, Hecataeus of Miletus. Of these, only
fragments of Hecataeus's works survived, and the authenticity of these
is debatable, but they provide a glimpse into the kind of tradition
Herodotus wrote his own Histories.
In his introduction to Hecataeus's work, Genealogies:
Fragment from the Histories VIII on
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2099,
early 2nd century AD
Hecataeus the Milesian speaks thus: I write these things as they seem
true to me; for the stories told by the
Greeks are various and in my
This points forward to the "folksy" yet "international" outlook
typical of Herodotus. However, one modern scholar has described the
work of Hecataeus as "a curious false start to history", since
despite his critical spirit, he failed to liberate history from myth.
Herodotus mentions Hecataeus in his Histories, on one occasion mocking
him for his naive genealogy and, on another occasion, quoting Athenian
complaints against his handling of their national history. It is
Herodotus borrowed much material from Hecataeus, as
stated by Porphyry in a quote recorded by Eusebius. In particular,
it is possible that he copied descriptions of the crocodile,
hippopotamus, and phoenix from Hecataeus's Circumnavigation of the
Known World (Periegesis / Periodos ges), even misrepresenting the
source as "Heliopolitans" (Histories 2.73).
But Hecataeus did not record events that had occurred in living
memory, unlike Herodotus, nor did he include the oral traditions of
Greek history within the larger framework of oriental history.
There is no proof that
Herodotus derived the ambitious scope of his
own work, with its grand theme of civilizations in conflict, from any
predecessor, despite much scholarly speculation about this in modern
Herodotus claims to be better informed than his
predecessors by relying on empirical observation to correct their
excessive schematism. For example, he argues for continental asymmetry
as opposed to the older theory of a perfectly circular earth with
Europe and Asia/
Africa equal in size (Histories 4.36 and 4.42).
However, he retains idealizing tendencies, as in his symmetrical
notions of the
Danube and Nile.
His debt to previous authors of prose "histories" might be
questionable, but there is no doubt that
Herodotus owed much to the
example and inspiration of poets and story-tellers. For example,
Athenian tragic poets provided him with a world-view of a balance
between conflicting forces, upset by the hubris of kings, and they
provided his narrative with a model of episodic structure. His
familiarity with Athenian tragedy is demonstrated in a number of
passages echoing Aeschylus's Persae, including the epigrammatic
observation that the defeat of the Persian navy at Salamis caused the
defeat of the land army (Histories 8.68 ~ Persae 728). The
debt may have been repaid by
Sophocles because there appear to be
echoes of The Histories in his plays, especially a passage in Antigone
that resembles Herodotus's account of the death of Intaphernes
(Histories 3.119 ~ Antigone 904-920). However, this
point is one of the most contentious issues in modern scholarship.
Homer was another inspirational source.[b] Just as
extensively on a tradition of oral poetry, sung by wandering
Herodotus appears to have drawn on an Ionian tradition
of story-telling, collecting and interpreting the oral histories he
chanced upon in his travels. These oral histories often contained
folk-tale motifs and demonstrated a moral, yet they also contained
substantial facts relating to geography, anthropology, and history,
all compiled by
Herodotus in an entertaining style and format.
Contemporary and modern critics
It is on account of the many strange stories and the folk-tales he
reported that his critics in early modern times branded him "The
Father of Lies". Even his own contemporaries found reason to
scoff at his achievement. In fact, one modern scholar has wondered
Herodotus left his home in Greek Anatolia, migrating westwards to
Athens and beyond, because his own countrymen had ridiculed his work,
a circumstance possibly hinted at in an epitaph said to have been
Herodotus at one of his three supposed resting places,
Herodotus the son of Sphynx
lies; in Ionic history without peer;
a Dorian born, who fled from slander's brand
and made in Thuria his new native land.
Yet it was in Athens where his most formidable contemporary critics
could be found. In 425 BC, which is about the time that Herodotus
is thought by many scholars to have died, the Athenian comic dramatist
Aristophanes created The Acharnians, in which he blames the
Peloponnesian War on the abduction of some prostitutes – a mocking
reference to Herodotus, who reported the Persians' account of their
wars with Greece, beginning with the rapes of the mythical heroines
Io, Europa, Medea, and Helen.
Similarly, the Athenian historian
Herodotus as a
"logos-writer" (story-teller). Thucydides, who had been trained in
rhetoric, became the model for subsequent prose-writers as an author
who seeks to appear firmly in control of his material, whereas with
his frequent digressions
Herodotus appeared to minimize (or possibly
disguise) his authorial control. Moreover,
Thucydides developed a
historical topic more in keeping with the Greek world-view: focused on
the context of the polis or city-state. The interplay of civilizations
was more relevant to
Greeks living in Anatolia, such as Herodotus
himself, for whom life within a foreign civilization was a recent
Before the Persian crisis, history had been represented among the
Greeks only by local or family traditions. The "Wars of Liberation"
had given to
Herodotus the first genuinely historical inspiration felt
by a Greek. These wars showed him that there was a corporate life,
higher than that of the city, of which the story might be told; and
they offered to him as a subject the drama of the collision between
East and West. With him, the spirit of history was born into Greece;
and his work, called after the nine Muses, was indeed the first
utterance of Clio.
— Richard Claverhouse Jebb
Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1806), Louvre, Paris
Modern scholars generally turn to Herodotus's own writing for reliable
information about his life, supplemented with ancient yet much
later sources, such as the Byzantine Suda, an 11th century
encyclopaedia which possibly took its information from traditional
The data are so few – they rest upon such late and slight authority;
they are so improbable or so contradictory, that to compile them into
a biography is like building a house of cards, which the first breath
of criticism will blow to the ground. Still, certain points may be
approximately fixed ...
— George Rawlinson
Modern accounts of his life typically go something like this:
Herodotus was born at
Halicarnassus around 484 BC. There is no
reason to disbelieve the Suda's information about his family: that it
was influential and that he was the son of Lyxes and Dryo, and the
brother of Theodorus, and that he was also related to
Panyassis – an
epic poet of the time. The town was within the
Persian Empire at that
Herodotus a Persian subject, and it may be that
Herodotus heard local eye-witness accounts of events within
the empire and of Persian preparations for the invasion of Greece,
including the movements of the local fleet under the command of
Artemisia I of Caria. Inscriptions recently discovered at
Halicarnassus indicate that her grandson Lygdamis negotiated with a
local assembly to settle disputes over seized property, which is
consistent with a tyrant under pressure. His name is not mentioned
later in the tribute list of the Athenian Delian League, indicating
that there might well have been a successful uprising against him some
time before 454 BC. The epic poet
Panyassis – a relative of
Herodotus – is reported to have taken part in a failed uprising.
Herodotus expresses affection for the island of Samos
(III, 39–60), and this is an indication that he might have
lived there in his youth. So it is possible that his family was
involved in an uprising against Lygdamis, leading to a period of exile
Samos and followed by some personal hand in the tyrant's eventual
The statue of
Herodotus in his hometown of Halicarnassus, modern
Herodotus wrote his Histories in the Ionian dialect, yet he was born
in Halicarnassus, which was a Dorian settlement. According to the
Herodotus learned the Ionian dialect as a boy living on the
island of Samos, to which he had fled with his family from the
oppressions of Lygdamis, tyrant of
Halicarnassus and grandson of
Suda also informs us that
Herodotus later returned home
to lead the revolt that eventually overthrew the tyrant. Due to recent
discoveries of inscriptions at
Halicarnassus dated to about
Herodotus's time, we now know that the Ionic dialect was used in
Halicarnassus in some official documents, so there is no need to
assume (like the Suda) that he must have learned the dialect
elsewhere. Further, the
Suda is the only source which we have for
the role played by
Herodotus as the heroic liberator of his
birthplace. That itself is a good reason to doubt such a romantic
Herodotus himself reveals, Halicarnassus, though a Dorian city, had
ended its close relations with its Dorian neighbours after an unseemly
quarrel (I, 144), and it had helped pioneer Greek trade with
Egypt (II, 178). It was, therefore, an outward-looking,
international-minded port within the Persian Empire, and the
historian's family could well have had contacts in other countries
under Persian rule, facilitating his travels and his researches.
Herodotus's eye-witness accounts indicate that he traveled in Egypt in
association with Athenians, probably some time after 454 BC or
possibly earlier, after an Athenian fleet had assisted the uprising
against Persian rule in 460–454 BC. He probably traveled to
Tyre next and then down the
Euphrates to Babylon. For some reason,
possibly associated with local politics, he subsequently found himself
unpopular in Halicarnassus, and some time around 447 BC, migrated
to Periclean Athens – a city whose people and democratic
institutions he openly admires (V, 78). Athens was also the place
where he came to know the local topography (VI, 137;
VIII, 52–5), as well as leading citizens such as the
Alcmaeonids, a clan whose history features frequently in his writing.
According to Eusebius and Plutarch,
Herodotus was granted a
financial reward by the Athenian assembly in recognition of his work.
It is possible that he unsuccessfully applied for Athenian
citizenship, a rare honour after 451 BC, requiring two separate
votes by a well-attended assembly.
In 443 BC or shortly afterwards, he migrated to
Thurium as part
of an Athenian-sponsored colony.
Aristotle refers to a version of The
Histories written by "
Herodotus of Thurium", and some passages in the
Histories have been interpreted as proof that he wrote about southern
Italy from personal experience there (IV, 15,99; VI, 127).
Intimate knowledge of some events in the first years of the
Peloponnesian War (VI, 91; VII, 133, 233; IX, 73)
indicate that he might have returned to Athens, in which case it is
possible that he died there during an outbreak of the plague. Possibly
he died in Macedonia instead, after obtaining the patronage of the
court there; or else he died back in Thurium. There is nothing in the
Histories that can be dated to later than 430 BC with any
certainty, and it is generally assumed that he died not long
afterwards, possibly before his sixtieth year.
Author and orator
Herodotus would have made his researches known to the larger world
through oral recitations to a public crowd. John Marincola writes in
his introduction to the Penguin edition of The Histories that there
are certain identifiable pieces in the early books of Herodotus's work
which could be labeled as "performance pieces". These portions of the
research seem independent and "almost detachable", so that they might
have been set aside by the author for the purposes of an oral
performance. The intellectual matrix of the 5th century,
Marincola suggests, comprised many oral performances in which
philosophers would dramatically recite such detachable pieces of their
work. The idea was to criticize previous arguments on a topic and
emphatically and enthusiastically insert their own in order to win
over the audience.
It was conventional in Herodotus's day for authors to "publish" their
works by reciting them at popular festivals. According to Lucian,
Herodotus took his finished work straight from
Anatolia to the Olympic
Games and read the entire Histories to the assembled spectators in one
sitting, receiving rapturous applause at the end of it. According
to a very different account by an ancient grammarian, Herodotus
refused to begin reading his work at the festival of Olympia until
some clouds offered him a bit of shade – by which time the assembly
had dispersed. (Hence the proverbial expression "
Herodotus and his
shade" to describe someone who misses an opportunity through delay.)
Herodotus's recitation at Olympia was a favourite theme among ancient
writers, and there is another interesting variation on the story to be
found in the Suda: that of Photius and Tzetzes, in which a
Thucydides happened to be in the assembly with his father, and
burst into tears during the recital.
Herodotus observed prophetically
to the boy's father, "Your son's soul yearns for knowledge."
Herodotus became close enough for both to
be interred in Thucydides' tomb in Athens. Such at least was the
opinion of Marcellinus in his Life of Thucydides. According to the
Suda, he was buried in Macedonian
Pella and in the agora in
Dedication in the Histories, translated into Latin by Lorenzo Valla,
The Histories were occasionally criticized in antiquity,[c] but modern
historians and philosophers generally take a positive view.
Despite the controversy,[d]
Herodotus still serves as the primary,
and often only, source for events in the Greek world, Persian Empire,
and the region generally in the two centuries leading up until his own
day. Herodotus, like many ancient historians, preferred an
element of show[e] to purely analytic history, aiming to give pleasure
with "exciting events, great dramas, bizarre exotica." As such,
certain passages have been the subject of controversy and even
some doubt, both in antiquity and
The accuracy of the works of
Herodotus has been controversial since
his own era.[g] Cicero[h] Aristotle, Josephus, Duris of
Samos,[i] Harpocration[j] and
Plutarch all commented on this
controversy. Generally, however, he was regarded as reliable
in antiquity, and is especially so today. Many scholars, ancient and
modern, routinely cite
Herodotus (e.g., Aubin, A. H. L. Heeren,
Davidson, Cheikh Anta Diop, Poe, Welsby, Celenko, Volney, Pierre
Montet, Bernal, Jackson, DuBois, Strabo). Many of these scholars
(Welsby, Heeren, Aubin, Diop, etc.) explicitly mention the reliability
of Herodotus's work[k] and demonstrate corroboration of Herodotus's
writings by modern scholars.[l] A. H. L. Heeren quoted
Herodotus throughout his work and provided corroboration by scholars
regarding several passages (source of the Nile, location of Meroe,
etc.). To further his work on the Egyptians and Assyrians, Aubin
uses Herodotus's accounts in various passages and defends Herodotus's
position. Aubin said that
Herodotus was "the author of the first
important narrative history of the world". Diop provides several
examples (the inundations of the Nile) which, he argues, support his
Herodotus was "quite scrupulous, objective, scientific for
his time." Diop argues that
Herodotus "always distinguishes carefully
between what he has seen and what he has been told." Diop also notes
Strabo corroborated Herodotus's ideas about the Black Egyptians,
Ethiopians, and Colchians.
Reconstruction of the
Oikoumene (inhabited world), ancient map based
on Herodotus, c. 450 BC
The reliability of Herodotus' writing about Egypt is sometimes
criticized.[m] Alan B. Lloyd argues that, as a historical
document, the writings of
Herodotus are seriously defective, and that
he was working from "inadequate sources". Nielsen writes: "Though
we cannot entirely rule out the possibility of
Herodotus having been
in Egypt, it must be said that his narrative bears little witness to
it." German historian Detlev Fehling questions whether Herodotus
ever traveled up the
Nile River, and considers doubtful almost
everything that he says about Egypt and Ethiopia. Fehling
states that "there is not the slightest bit of history behind the
whole story" about the claim of
Herodotus that Pharaoh Sesostris
campaigned in Europe, and that he left a colony in Colchia.[n]
Gold dust and nuggets
Herodotus provides much information about the nature of the world and
the status of science during his lifetime, often engaging in private
speculation. For example, he reports that the annual flooding of the
Nile was said to be the result of melting snows far to the south, and
he comments that he cannot understand how there can be snow in Africa,
the hottest part of the known world, offering an elaborate explanation
based on the way that desert winds affect the passage of the Sun over
this part of the world (2:18ff). He also passes on reports from
Phoenician sailors that, while circumnavigating Africa, they "saw the
sun on the right side while sailing westwards". Owing to this brief
mention, which is included almost as an afterthought, it has been
Africa was circumnavigated by ancient seafarers, for this
is precisely where the sun ought to have been. His accounts of India
are among the oldest records of Indian civilization by an
Discoveries made since the end of the 19th century have generally
added to Herodotus's credibility. He described Gelonus, located in
Scythia, as a city thousands of times larger than Troy; this was
widely disbelieved until it was rediscovered in 1975. The
archaeological study of the now-submerged ancient Egyptian city of
Heracleion and the recovery of the so-called "Naucratis stela" give
credibility to Herodotus's previously unsupported claim that
Heracleion was founded during the Egyptian New Kingdom.
Croesus Receiving Tribute from a Lydian Peasant, by Claude Vignon
After journeys to India and Pakistan, French ethnologist Michel
Peissel claimed to have discovered an animal species that may
illuminate one of the most bizarre passages in Herodotus's
Histories. In Book 3, passages 102 to 105,
Herodotus reports that
a species of fox-sized, furry "ants" lives in one of the far eastern,
Indian provinces of the Persian Empire. This region, he reports, is a
sandy desert, and the sand there contains a wealth of fine gold dust.
These giant ants, according to Herodotus, would often unearth the gold
dust when digging their mounds and tunnels, and the people living in
this province would then collect the precious dust. Peissel reports
that, in an isolated region of northern Pakistan on the Deosai Plateau
Gilgit–Baltistan province, there is a species of marmot – the
Himalayan marmot, a type of burrowing squirrel – that may have been
Herodotus called giant ants. The ground of the Deosai Plateau is
rich in gold dust, much like the province that
According to Peissel, he interviewed the Minaro tribal people who live
in the Deosai Plateau, and they have confirmed that they have, for
generations, been collecting the gold dust that the marmots bring to
the surface when they are digging their underground burrows. Later
authors such as
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder mentioned this story in the gold
mining section of his Naturalis Historia.
The Himalayan marmot
Peissel offers the theory that
Herodotus may have confused the old
Persian word for "marmot" with the word for "mountain ant". Research
Herodotus probably did not know any Persian (or any
other language except his native Greek) and was forced to rely on many
local translators when travelling in the vast multilingual Persian
Herodotus did not claim to have personally seen the creatures
which he described.
Herodotus did, though, follow up in
passage 105 of Book 3 with the claim that the "ants" are said to chase
and devour full-grown camels.
Accusations of bias
Some "calumnious fictions" were written about
Herodotus in a work
On the Malice of Herodotus by Plutarch, a Chaeronean by birth,
(or it might have been a Pseudo-Plutarch, in this case "a great
collector of slanders"), including the allegation that the historian
was prejudiced against Thebes because the authorities there had denied
him permission to set up a school. Similarly, in a Corinthian
Dio Chrysostom (or yet another pseudonymous author) accused
the historian of prejudice against Corinth, sourcing it in personal
bitterness over financial disappointments – an account also
given by Marcellinus in his Life of Thucydides. In fact, Herodotus
was in the habit of seeking out information from empowered sources
within communities, such as aristocrats and priests, and this also
occurred at an international level, with Periclean Athens becoming his
principal source of information about events in Greece. As a result,
his reports about Greek events are often coloured by Athenian bias
against rival states – Thebes and Corinth in particular.
The Histories were sometimes criticized in antiquity,[o] but modern
historians and philosophers take a more positive view of Herodotus's
methodology, especially those searching for a paradigm of objective
historical writing. A few modern scholars have argued that Herodotus
exaggerated the extent of his travels and invented his sources,
yet his reputation continues largely intact.
Herodotus is variously
considered "father of comparative anthropology", "the father of
ethnography", and "more modern than any other ancient historian in
his approach to the ideal of total history".
Herodotus's use of sources and sense of authority
It is clear from the beginning of Book 1 of the Histories that
Herodotus utilizes (or at least claims to utilize) various sources in
his narrative. K.H. Waters relates that "Herodotos did not work from a
purely Hellenic standpoint; he was accused by the patriotic but
Plutarch of being philobarbaros, a pro-barbarian
Herodotus will at times relate various accounts of the same story. For
example, in Book 1 he mentions both the Phoenician and the Persian
accounts of Io. However,
Herodotus will at time arbitrate between
varying accounts: "I am not going to say that these events happened
one way or the other. Rather, I will point out the man who I know for
a fact began the wrong-doing against the Greeks." Again, later,
Herodotus claims himself as an authority: "I know this is how it
happened because I heard it from the Delphians myself."
Throughout his work,
Herodotus attempts to explain the actions of
people. Speaking about
Solon the Athenian,
Herodotus states "[Solon]
sailed away on the pretext of seeing the world, but it was really so
that he could not be compelled to repeal any of the laws he had laid
down." Again, in the story about
Croesus and his son's death, when
speaking of Adrastus (the man who accidentally killed Croesus' son),
Herodotus states: "Adrastus ... believing himself to be the most
ill-fated man he had ever known, cut his own throat over the
Herodotus had not met these people whom he is discussing, he
claims to understand their thoughts and intentions.
Mode of explanation
Herodotus writes with the purpose of explaining; that is, he discusses
the reason for or cause of for an event. He lays this out in the
proem: "This is the publication of the research of
Halicarnassus, so that the actions of people shall not fade with time,
so that the great and admirable achievements of both
barbarians shall not go unrenowned, and, among other things, to set
forth the reasons why they waged war on each other."
This mode of explanation traces itself all the way back to Homer,
who opened the
Iliad by asking:
Which of the immortals set these two at each other's throats?
Zeus’ son and Leto’s, offended
by the warlord. Agamemnon had dishonored
Chryses, Apollo's priest, so the god
struck the Greek camp with plague,
and the soldiers were dying of it.
Herodotus begin with a question of causality. In
Homer's case, "who set these two at each other's throats?" In
Herodotus's case, "Why did the
Greeks and barbarians go to war with
Herodotus's means of explanation does not necessarily posit a simple
cause; rather, his explanations cover a host of potential causes and
emotions. It is notable, however, that "the obligations of gratitude
and revenge are the fundamental human motives for Herodotus, just as
... they are the primary stimulus to the generation of narrative
Some readers of
Herodotus believe that his habit of tying events back
to personal motives signifies an inability to see broader and more
abstract reasons for action. Gould argues to the contrary that this is
Herodotus attempts to provide the rational reasons, as
understood by his contemporaries, rather than providing more abstract
Types of causality
Herodotus attributes cause to both divine and human agents. These are
not perceived as mutually exclusive, but rather mutually
interconnected. This is true of Greek thinking in general, at least
Homer onward. Gould notes that invoking the supernatural in
order to explain an event does not answer the question "why did this
happen?" but rather "why did this happen to me?" By way of example,
faulty craftsmanship is the human cause for a house collapsing.
However, divine will is the reason that the house collapses at the
particular moment when I am inside. It was the will of the gods that
the house collapsed while a particular individual was within it,
whereas it was the cause of man that the house had a weak structure
and was prone to falling.
Some authors, including
Geoffrey de Ste-Croix
Geoffrey de Ste-Croix and Mabel Lang, have
argued that Fate, or the belief that "this is how it had to be," is
Herodotus's ultimate understanding of causality. Herodotus's
explanation that an event "was going to happen" maps well on to
Aristotelean and Homeric means of expression. The idea of "it was
going to happen" reveals a "tragic discovery" associated with
fifth-century drama. This tragic discovery can be seen in Homer's,
Iliad as well.
John Gould argues that
Herodotus should be understood as falling in a
long line of story-tellers, rather than thinking of his means of
explanation as a "philosophy of history" or "simple causality". Thus,
according to Gould, Herodotus's means of explanation is a mode of
story-telling and narration that has been passed down from generations
Herodotus' sense of what was 'going to happen' is not the language of
one who holds a theory of historical necessity, who sees the whole of
human experience as constrained by inevitability and without room for
human choice or human responsibility, diminished and belittled by
forces too large for comprehension or resistance; it is rather the
traditional language of a teller of tales whose tale is structured by
his awareness of the shape it must have and who presents human
experience on the model of the narrative patterns that are built into
his stories; the narrative impulse itself, the impulse towards
'closure' and the sense of an ending, is retrojected to become
Herodotus and myth
Herodotus considered his "inquiries" a serious pursuit of
knowledge, he was not above relating entertaining tales derived from
the collective body of myth, but he did so judiciously with regard for
his historical method, by corroborating the stories through enquiry
and testing their probability. While the gods never make personal
appearances in his account of human events,
emphatically that "many things prove to me that the gods take part in
the affairs of man" (IX, 100).
In Book One, passages 23 and 24,
Herodotus relates the story of Arion,
the renowned harp player, "second to no man living at that time," who
was saved by a dolphin.
Herodotus prefaces the story by noting that "a
very wonderful thing is said to have happened," and alleges its
veracity by adding that the "Corinthians and the Lesbians agree in
their account of the matter." Having become very rich while at the
court of Periander,
Arion conceived a desire to sail to Italy and
Sicily. He hired a vessel crewed by Corinthians, whom he felt he could
trust, but the sailors plotted to throw him overboard and seize his
Arion discovered the plot and begged for his life, but the
crew gave him two options: that either he kill himself on the spot or
jump ship and fend for himself in the sea.
Arion flung himself into
the water, and a dolphin carried him to shore.
Herodotus clearly writes as both historian and teller of tales.
Herodotus takes a fluid position between the artistic story-weaving of
Homer and the rational data-accounting of later historians. John
Herrington has developed a helpful metaphor for describing Herodotus's
dynamic position in the history of Western art and thought –
Herodotus as centaur:
The human forepart of the animal ... is the urbane and responsible
classical historian; the body indissolubly united to it is something
out of the faraway mountains, out of an older, freer and wilder realm
where our conventions have no force.
Herodotus is neither a mere gatherer of data nor a simple teller of
tales – he is both. While
Herodotus is certainly concerned with
giving accurate accounts of events, this does not preclude for him the
insertion of powerful mythological elements into his narrative,
elements which will aid him in expressing the truth of matters under
his study. Thus to understand what
Herodotus is doing in the
Histories, we must not impose strict demarcations between the man as
mythologist and the man as historian, or between the work as myth and
the work as history. As James Romm has written,
Herodotus worked under
a common ancient Greek cultural assumption that the way events are
remembered and retold (e.g. in myths or legends) produces a valid kind
of understanding, even when this retelling is not entirely
factual. For Herodotus, then, it takes both myth and history to
produce truthful understanding.
Historiography (the history of history and historians)
Thucydides, ancient Greek historian who is also often said to be "the
father of history"
Pliny the Elder
Battle of Thermopylae:
Herodotus and other Sources
C. Hude (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Tomvs prior: Libros I-IV continens.
C. Hude (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Tomvs alter: Libri V-IX continens.
H. B. Rosén (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Vol. I: Libros I-IV continens.
H. B. Rosén (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Vol. II: Libros V-IX continens
indicibus criticis adiectis (Stuttgart 1997)
N. G. Wilson (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Tomvs prior: Libros I-IV
continens. (Oxford 2015)
N. G. Wilson (ed.) Herodoti Historiae. Tomvs alter: Libri V-IX
continens. (Oxford 2015)
Several English translations of The Histories of
Herodotus are readily
available in multiple editions. The most readily available are those
Henry Cary (judge), translation 1849: text Internet Archive
George Rawlinson, translation 1858–1860. Public domain; many
editions available, although
Everyman Library and Wordsworth Classics
editions are the most common ones still in print.
A. D. Godley 1920; revised 1926. Reprinted 1931, 1946, 1960, 1966,
1975, 1981, 1990, 1996, 1999, 2004. Available in four volumes from
Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.
ISBN 0-674-99130-3 Printed with Greek on the left and English on
A. D. Godley Herodotus : The Persian Wars : Volume I :
Books 1–2 (Cambridge, MA 1920)
A. D. Godley Herodotus : The Persian Wars : Volume II :
Books 3–4 (Cambridge, MA 1921)
A. D. Godley Herodotus : The Persian Wars : Volume
III : Books 5–7 (Cambridge, MA 1922)
A. D. Godley Herodotus : The Persian Wars : Volume IV :
Books 8–9 (Cambridge, MA 1925)
Aubrey de Sélincourt, originally 1954; revised by John Marincola in
1996. Several editions from
Penguin Books available.
David Grene, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
Robin Waterfield, with an Introduction and Notes by Carolyn Dewald,
Oxford World Classics, 1997. ISBN 978-0-19-953566-8
Strassler, Robert B., (ed.), and Purvis, Andrea L. (trans.), The
Landmark Herodotus, Pantheon, 2007. ISBN 978-0-375-42109-9 with
adequate ancillary information.
The Histories of
Herodotus Interlinear English Translation by Heinrich
Stein (ed.) and George Macaulay (trans.), Lighthouse Digital
Herodotus. Herodotus: The Histories: The Complete Translation,
Backgrounds, Commentaries. Translated by Walter Blanco. Edited by
Jennifer Tolbert Roberts. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2013.
"The Histories, Herodotus". Translated by Tom Holland, with
introduction and notes by Paul Cartledge. New York, Penguin, 2013.
^ The title of Herodotus' work has been traditionally (i.e. for at
least several hundred years) been translated rather roughly as The
Histories or The History. The original title can be translated from
the Greek as "researches" or "inquiries".
^ “In the scheme and plan of his work, in the arrangement and order
of its parts, in the tone and character of the thoughts, in ten
thousand little expressions and words, the Homeric student
Lucian of Samosata, who went as far as to deny him a place among
the famous on the Island of the Blessed in Verae Historiae.
^ Some regard his works as being at least partly unreliable. Fehling
writes of "a problem recognized by everybody", namely that Herodotus
frequently cannot be taken at face value.
^ Boedeker comments on Herodotus' use of literary devices.
^ For Detlev Fehling, the sources are simply not credible that
Herodotus claims for many stories that he reports. Persian and
Egyptian informants tell stories to
Herodotus that dovetail neatly
into Greek myths and literature, yet show no signs of knowing their
own traditions. For Fehling, the only credible explanation is that
Herodotus invented these sources, and that the stories themselves were
^ Kenton L. Sparks writes, "In antiquity,
Herodotus had acquired the
reputation of being unreliable, biased, parsimonious in his praise of
heroes, and mendacious".
Cicero (On the Laws I.5) said that the works of
Herodotus were full
of legends or "fables".
^ Duris of
Herodotus a myth-monger.
Harpocration wrote a book on "the lies of Herodotus".
^ such as on the
^ Welsby said that "archaeology graphically confirms Herodotus'
Herodotus claimed to have visited Babylon. The absence of any
mention of the Hanging Gardens of
Babylon in his work has attracted
further attacks on his credibility. In response, Dalley has proposed
that the Hanging Gardens may have been in Ninevah rather than in
^ Fehling concludes that the works of
Herodotus are intended as
fiction. Boedeker concurs that much of the content of the works of
Herodotus are literary devices.
^ For example, they were criticized for inaccuracy by
Samosata, who attacked
Herodotus as a liar in Verae Historiae and went
as far as to deny him a place among the famous on the Island of the
^ T. James Luce, The Greek Historians, 2002, p. 26.
^ New Oxford American Dictionary, "Herodotos", Oxford University Press
^ "Herodotus" Encyclopedia of World Biography. The Gale Group.
Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ Burn (1972), p. 23, citing Dionysius On Thucydides
^ Burn (1972), p. 27
^ a b Murray (1986), p. 188
^ Herodotus, Histories 2.143, 6.137
^ Preparation of the Gospel, X, 3
^ Immerwahr (1985), pp. 430, 440
^ Immerwahr (1985), p. 431
^ Burn (1972), pp. 22–23
^ Immerwahr (1985), p. 430
^ Immerwahr (1985), pp. 427, 432
^ Richard Jebb (ed), Antigone, Cambridge University Press, 1976,
pp 181-182, n.904-920
^ Rawlinson (1859), p. 6
^ Murray (1986), pp. 190–191
^ a b c Burn (1972), p. 10
^ David Pipes. "Herodotus: Father of History, Father of Lies".
Retrieved 16 November 2009.
^ Rawlinson (1859)
^ Burn (1972), p. 13
^ Lawrence A. Tritle. (2004). The Peloponnesian War. Greenwood
Publishing Group. pp 147-148
^ John Hart. (1982).
Herodotus and Greek History. Taylor and Francis.
^ a b Murray (1986), p. 191
^ Waterfield, Robin (trans.) and Dewald, Carolyn (ed.). (1998). The
Histories by Herodotus. University of Oxford Press.
“Introduction”, p xviii
^ Richard C. Jebb, The Genius of Sophocles, section 7
^ Burn (1972), p. 7
^ Rawlinson (1859), p. 1
^ Rawlinson (1859), Introduction
^ Burn (1972), Introduction
^ Dandamaev, M. A. (1989). A Political History of the Achaemenid
Empire. BRILL. p. 153. ISBN 978-9004091726. The ‘Father of
History’, Herodotus, was born at Halicarnassus, and before his
emigration to mainland Greece was a subject of the Persian
^ Kia, Mehrdad (2016). The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia.
ABC-CLIO. p. 161. ISBN 978-1610693912. At the time of
Herodotus’ birth southwestern Asia Minor, including Halicarnassus,
was under Persian Achaemenid rule.
^ Burn (1972), p. 11
^ Rawlinson (1859), p. 11
Eusebius Chron. Can. Pars. II p 339, 01.83.4, cited by
Rawlinson (1859), Introduction
Plutarch De Malign. Herod. II p 862 A, cited by
Rawlinson (1859), Introduction
^ The Histories. Introduction and Notes by John Marincola; Trans. by
Aubrey de Selincourt. Penguin Books. 2003. pp. xii.
^ Rawlinson (1859), p. 14
^ Montfaucon’s Bibliothec. Coisl. Cod. clxxvii p 609,
cited by Rawlinson (1859), p. 14
^ Photius Bibliothec. Cod. lx p 59, cited by Rawlinson
(1859), p. 15
Tzetzes Chil. 1.19, cited by Rawlinson (1859), p. 15
^ Marcellinus, in Vita. Thucyd. p ix, cited by Rawlinson (1859),
^ Rawlinson (1859), p. 25
^ a b Murray (1986), p. 189
^ Mikalson (2003), pp. 198–200
^ Fehling (1994), p. 2
^ a b Jones (1996)
^ a b Boedeker (2000), pp. 101–102
^ Saltzman (2010)
^ Archambault (2002), p. 171
^ Farley (2010), p. 21
^ a b Lloyd (1993), p. 4
^ a b Nielsen (1997), pp. 42–43
^ a b Baragwanath & de Bakker (2010), p. 19
^ a b Fehling (1994), p. 13
^ a b c Marincola (2001), p. 34
^ a b Dalley (2003)
^ a b Dalley (2013)
^ Fehling (1989), pp. 4, 53–54
^ Roberts (2011), p. 2
^ Marincola (2001), p. 59
^ Cameron (2004), p. 156
^ Sparks (1998), p. 58
^ Asheri, Lloyd & Corcella (2007)
^ Welsby (1996), p. 40
^ Heeren (1838), pp. 13, 379, 422–424
^ Aubin (2002), pp. 94–96, 100–102, 118–121, 141–144,
^ Diop (1981), p. 1
^ Diop (1974), p. 2
^ Fehling (1994), pp. 4–6
^ The Indian Empire The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p.
^ "Was the Ramayana actually set in and around today's
^ a b Peissel (1984)
^ Marlise Simons (25 November 1996). "Himalayas offer clue to legend
of gold-digging 'ants'". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February
^ Rawlinson (1859), pp. 13–14
Dio Chrysostom ''Orat. xxxvii, p11". Penelope.uchicago.edu.
Retrieved 13 September 2012.
^ Marcellinus, Life of Thucydides
^ Burn (1972), pp. 8, 9, 32–34
^ Fehling (1989)
^ Waters (1985), p. 3
^ Blanco (2013), pp. 5–6, §1.1, 1.5
^ Blanco (2013), p. 6, §1.5
^ Blanco (2013), p. 9, §1.20
^ Blanco (2013), p. 12, §1.29
^ Blanco (2013), p. 17, §1.45, ¶2
^ Blanco (2013), p. 5
^ Gould (1989), p. 64
^ Homer, Iliad, trans. Stanley Lombardo (Indianapolis: Hackett
Publishing Company, 1997): 1, Bk. 1, lines 9-16.
^ Gould (1989), p. 65
^ Gould (1989), p. 67
^ Gould (1989), pp. 67–70
^ Gould (1989), p. 71
^ Gould (1989), pp. 72–73
^ Gould (1989), pp. 75–76
^ Gould (1989), pp. 76–78
^ Gould (1989), pp. 77–78
^ Wardman (1960)
^ Histories 1.23–24.
^ Romm (1998), p. 8
^ Romm (1998), p. 6
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The History of Herodotus, vol. 2 at Project Gutenberg
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