Works of Herodotus

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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.

Modern scholars generally turn to Herodotus's own writing for reliable information about his life, [25] supplemented with ancient yet much later sources, such as the Byzantine Suda , an 11th-century encyclopedia which possibly took its information from traditional accounts. 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 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 time, making Herodotus a Persian subject, [29] [30] and it may be that the young Herodotus heard local eyewitness 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.

Author:Herodotus

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. The epic poet Panyassis — a relative of Herodotus — is reported to have taken part in a failed uprising. So it is possible that his family was involved in an uprising against Lygdamis, leading to a period of exile on Samos and followed by some personal hand in the tyrant's eventual fall. Herodotus wrote his Histories in the Ionian dialect, yet he was born in Halicarnassus, which was a Dorian settlement.

Tom Holland on Herodotus' Histories

According to the Suda , 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 Artemisia. The 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.

Herodotus - New World Encyclopedia

That itself is a good reason to doubt such a romantic account. 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. He probably traveled to Tyre next and then down the Euphrates to Babylon. According to Eusebius [33] and Plutarch , [34] Herodotus was granted a financial reward by the Athenian assembly in recognition of his work.

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Possibly he died in Macedonia instead, after obtaining the patronage of the court there; or else he died back in Thurium. 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 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. 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 [38] and Tzetzes , [39] in which a young 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. Eventually, Thucydides and 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. The Histories were occasionally criticized in antiquity, [c] but modern historians and philosophers generally take a positive view. The accuracy of the works of Herodotus has been controversial since his own era. Many scholars, ancient and modern, routinely cite Herodotus e.

Many of these scholars Welsby, Heeren, Aubin, Diop, etc. Heeren quoted Herodotus throughout his work and provided corroboration by scholars regarding several passages source of the Nile, location of Meroe, etc. Aubin said that Herodotus was "the author of the first important narrative history of the world".

The reliability of Herodotus's writing about Egypt is sometimes criticized. Lloyd argues that, as a historical document, the writings of Herodotus are seriously defective, and that he was working from "inadequate sources". However, a recent discovery of a baris [described in The Histories ] during an excavation of the sunken Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleiond lends credence to Herodotus's travels and storytelling.

Herodotus provides much information about the nature of the world and the status of science during his lifetime, often engaging in private speculation.

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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 ff. He also passes on reports from Phoenician sailors that, while circumnavigating Africa , they "saw the sun on the right side while sailing westwards", although, being unaware of the existence of the southern hemisphere, he says that he does not believe the claim.

Owing to this brief mention, which is included almost as an afterthought, it has been argued that Africa was circumnavigated by ancient seafarers, for this is precisely where the sun ought to have been. 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 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.

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.

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 in Gilgit—Baltistan province, there is a species of marmot — the Himalayan marmot , a type of burrowing squirrel — that may have been what Herodotus called giant ants. The ground of the Deosai Plateau is rich in gold dust, much like the province that Herodotus describes.

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 burrows. Later authors such as Pliny the Elder mentioned this story in the gold mining section of his Naturalis Historia. Peissel offers the theory that Herodotus may have confused the old Persian word for "marmot" with the word for "mountain ant". Research suggests that 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 Empire.

Herodotus did not claim to have personally seen the creatures which he described. Some "calumnious fictions" were written about Herodotus in a work titled 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.

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, [80] yet his reputation continues largely intact.

Herodotus is variously considered "father of comparative anthropology", [16] "the father of ethnography", [45] and "more modern than any other ancient historian in his approach to the ideal of total history". 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. Waters relates that "Herodotos did not work from a purely Hellenic standpoint; he was accused by the patriotic but somewhat imperceptive Plutarch of being philobarbaros , a pro-barbarian or pro-foreigner.


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Herodotus at times relates various accounts of the same story. For example, in Book 1 he mentions both the Phoenician and the Persian accounts of Io. Rather, I will point out the man who I know for a fact began the wrong-doing against the Greeks. 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. Herodotus writes with the purpose of explaining ; that is, he discusses the reason for or cause of an event.

He lays this out in the proem: "This is the publication of the research of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that the actions of people shall not fade with time, so that the great and admirable achievements of both Greeks and 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, [88] who opened the Iliad by asking:. Both Homer and Herodotus begin with a question of causality. In Homer's case, "who set these two at each other's throats? 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 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 likely because Herodotus attempts to provide the rational reasons, as understood by his contemporaries, rather than providing more abstract reasons.

Herodotus attributes cause to both divine and human agents.

These are not perceived as mutually exclusive, but rather mutually interconnected.