Herodotus was a Greek Historian from Ionia. As already mentioned, he sometimes reports what people say because it reveals what they actually think and not because he is somehow credulous. Gender: Male Religion: Pagan Race or Ethnicity. Herodotus differs markedly in his style from either Homer or Hesiod. The accuracy of the works of Herodotus has been controversial since his own era. For Herodotus’ unremitting focus on the mythological or wondrous, Thucydides roundly criticizes him. At times, he even tells the reader that he was unable to obtain certain information, and he occasionally presents and adjudicates between various sources and accounts. Indeed, Herodotus’ focus is not so much on difference as on the common human nature that generates so many interesting variations, and which can be explored thoroughly only through its many manifestations. More prosaically, six out of the seven names he gives for Darius’ conspirators are confirmed by Darius’ inscription at Bisutun, suggesting a reliable Persian informant (III 7, 1–3), and even one of his most outré accounts, that of the ants who dig for gold (III 102, 5), has been rescued by recent scientific speculations (that suggest the ants may, in fact, have been marmots). Greek historian. Homer and Hesiod, on the other hand, both composed verse. Some have claimed that this is the Herodotean vision of human life itself, that happiness must be looked for only at the end of life, because fortune, fate, or the divine can always intervene to bring the ostensibly happy man to sadness and ruin. Although Herodotus’ stories may be false in certain particulars, however, they may also reveal the horizon of the peoples that he was studying, and so accurately record the internal view of their beliefs. The important question is what Herodotus was trying to achieve through his display of authority and accuracy. The two Greeks writing primarily about Greece, Herodotus and Thucydides , were predominantly writers that concerned themselves mostly with wars and the data surrounding Greek and the combatant’s life during the time of war. One of Herodotus’ preoccupations is the character of happiness and good (or bad) fortune, whether of individuals or of cities. He thus describes the actions of Croesus, the king of Lydia, who conquered the Greeks of mainland Ionia but who was in turn subjugated by the Persians, and this account leads Herodotus into a digression on the past history of the Ionians and Dorians and the division between the two most powerful Greek cities, the Ionian Athens and the Doric Sparta. This brief account of the first half of Herodotus’s History not only conceals its infinite variety but is positively misleading insofar as it suggests a straightforward geographical, sociological, and historical description of a varied empire. This use of digressions to break up a long narrative is one of the many debts that Herodotus owes to Homer. Herodotus’ emphasis on evidence and autopsy is shared with the early medical writers of the Hippocratic corpus, for example. The story of Croesus in Book I gives Herodotus the occasion to foreshadow, as it were, in Croesus’s talk with Solon the general meaning of the story of the Greco-Persian Wars, and so of his whole History—that great prosperity is “a slippery thing” and may lead to a fall, more particularly if it is accompanied by arrogance and folly as it was in Xerxes. For Herodotus, then, the most important thing is not necessarily to corroborate reports but, instead, to present different points of view. The first great work of literary prose to be written outside of the Biblical tradition, the Histories is not only the forerunner of all discursive writing in the Western canon, but it is also the most complete surviving document of Pre-Socratic thought, the writings of the other Pre-Socratic thinkers being fragmentary. Writing in prose, Herodotus conveys facts without artistic elaboration. The main narrative ends in the previous chapter with the phrase “and nothing else happened that year” (IX, 121), leaving this short passage tacked on. This is where my major rub lies with many attitudes towards him. The writing of Herodotus's great work, the Histories (the name is simply a transliteration of a Greek word that means primarily \"inquiries\" or \"research\"), must have occupied a considerable portion of his later life, but we do not know when, where, or in what order it was written. The literary models used in this book include selections from Herodotus’ Histories , the Greek myths, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word of God , Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People , and Aeschylus’ trilogy The Oresteia , just to mention a few. It is probable, however, that Herodotus did intend to end with the events of 479. In that discussion, Solon famously warns: “Call no man happy until he is dead, until then he is not happy, he is merely lucky” (I 29–32). Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Cyrus was the first Achaemenid king and founder of the Persian empire, while Croesus was the Lydian king whose march against Cyrus, according to Herodotus, caused the Achaemenids to turn their attention to Ionia and to the Greek mainland. These are not, however, the only digressions in the work. Moreover, external sources reveal some startling inaccuracies in the Histories. This he achieved by means of digressions skillfully worked into his main narrative. Herodotus was considered a historian, but he wrote a lot of mythology. His comparative project may therefore have a non-parochial intention: to liberate the Greeks themselves (or certain of his Greek readers, at least) from the shackles of unreflective custom. Although the thread may sometimes be hard to follow through the wealth of details and anecdotes, the fundamental narrative of the conflict between the Greeks and the barbarians is consistently maintained and suggests an overarching authorial intention. Herodotus' style was largely typical of Grecian-Roman historiography: that is, an emphasis on the sensational, the mythical, and a downplay on verifiable facts. You could describe an event in history, or something in your life. Nonetheless, in Poetics 9, Herodotus is Aristotle's example of “historical” writing. The historian Duris of Samos called Herodotus a "myth-monger". In Thucydides’ prefatory pages, commonly known as the Archaeology, Thucydides even identifies several Herodotean “errors,” although he never mentions Herodotus by name. The Histories. Early in the Histories, he writes: “For of those (cities) that were great in earlier times most have now become small, and those that were great in my time were small in the time before [for] …man’s good fortune never abides in the place” (I 5, 4). The interesting problem that emerged already in the fourth century, as the genre of history separated itself from other sorts of prose inquiry, was the larger purpose to which historical narrative might be put—education, persuasion, and even entertainment. This sentence is programmatic for the work as a whole, which can be divided roughly into two major parts—an account of the wonders and peoples of the world, barbarian and Greek, which occupies the first half of the Histories, and then the relations between Greece and Persia leading up to and through the Persian Wars, which dominates Books Five through Nine. If Herodotus suggests that “everywhere custom (nomoi) is king” (III, 38), does that make him a cultural relativist in the common sense of that term? The overall impression is that of a careful and credible reporter, as well as someone who has an abiding curiosity about the world. It is generally believed that the histories were first intended to be orated by the author himself in the same manner as a recitation of Homer. Thucydides is reporting on war, and war alone. Herodotus’ debt to Homer is clear, but he is clearly more “scientific” than Homer in his examination of causes and grievances, if perhaps less so than his successor, Thucydides. Herodotus’ interest in Greeks and barbarians may even reflect a desire to shed light on the unexamined assumptions of Greekness itself, since his initial readership would naturally be Greek. Herodotus wrote only one book, known today as the Histories. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Yet he understood at least one essential of the strategy of Xerxes’ invasion, the Persians’ dependence on their fleet though they came by land, and therefore Herodotus understood the decisive importance of the naval battle at Salamis. It is also important to note that there is sometimes little correlation between the length of digressions on particular countries and the importance of those countries in the Persian Wars. Herodotus' account ... From the mid-9th century AD onwards, the uncial script was replaced in book writing by a new writing style, the Greek minuscule, which used more compact, rounded letter shapes and was partly based on the earlier cursive. Herodotus is known as the “Father of History” for writing the first great narrative of history, which documented the events and wars between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BCE. Overall, the Histories narrates the events culminating in the great Persian Wars between the city-states of Greece and the empire of Achaemenid Persia. Structured around the first four Achaemenid kings—Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes— and their military campaigns against various peoples, the Histories contains a multitude of ethnographic digressions, which make up many of the most striking and memorable parts of the text. Seen in this light, the perplexities would represent not inconsistencies but rather stimuli to the education of the attentive reader. May this rule govern my entire work” (VII 152, 3). Custom may be king, but there may nevertheless be natural limits or natural currents running through the customs of various peoples, for human nature may not be infinitely plastic. Herodotus was indeed popular during the Hellenistic period, but he was popular because every two-bit intellectual went abroad with the intent of writing a pamphlet disproving some facet of the History.<92> The only one of these pamphlets that has survived with the text intact is Plutarch's On the Malignity of Herodotus. Herodotus presents his analytical method openly and candidly. "That sounds obvious to us now, but it wasn't at all obvious when Herodotus was writing in the 440s B.C.E.," says Dewald. Herodotus’ Histories famously begins with the following sentence: “I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought each other.”. Herodotus was thus born a Persian subject, and such he con~ tinued until he was thirty or fiveandthirty years of age. Although this maxim of geographical determinism is not an inappropriate ending to Herodotus’ ethnographic observations, it is sometimes believed that the work remains unfinished. These divisions, and the ascription of each book to one of the nine muses, can be attributed to the librarians of Alexandria and is first attested in the first century BCE. Herodotus passes no judgement, but reports what he has heard, even when plainly ridiculous. And his combative rhetorical style is reminiscent of the Sophists. Tacitus’ style of history writing more closely resembles the ideal of what a historian should be, in quality, accuracy and freedom of personal idealism or slant. The primary narrative arc traces eighty years. Herodotus believes in divine retribution as a punishment of human impiety, arrogance, and cruelty, but his emphasis is always on human actions and character rather than on the interventions of the gods, in his descriptions of historical events. In the second half he is largely, but by no means only, writing military history, and it is evident that he knew little of military matters. There is a clear overlap between these two parts of the Histories: the wonders and peoples that Herodotus describes are those encountered by the expanding Persian empire, an expansionism that ultimately led to the Persian Wars. Herodotus announced the purpose and scope of his work at the beginning of his Histories: By the mid-fifth century BCE writing in Greece had existed for only about 300 years. Good luck! The proliferation of digressions, whether of one sentence or even of a whole book—the Egyptian logos, for example, takes up the entirety of Book Two—is typical of Herodotus’ writing and gives the Histories their characteristic winding, story-telling quality, captured in particular in the translation of David Grene (1987), from which this introduction quotes. Perhaps the most famous example comes when he recounts the report of Phoenicians who circumnavigated Africa and noted that at a certain point the sun started to appear on the right (IV, 42, 4). Quick guides for ... Herodotus' Histories is divided into nine Books and each of these Books is divided into Chapters and each chapter into line numbers.The purpose of such a system Questions 1. The styles of writing differ through the fact that Einhard gives what seems to be accurate details, while Herodotus gives information through other people and personal beliefs. My mom says that I only went to kindergarten in the afternoon session because at that time it was only necessary to go for half a day of kindergarten. In this regard he inserts not only amusing short stories but also dialogue and even speeches by the leading historical figures into his narrative, thus beginning a practice that would persist throughout the course of historiography in the classical world. The Histories ends abruptly with Cyrus the Great’s comment that “soft lands breed soft men” and the subsequent Persian decision to continue to live and rule from the mountains. Herodotus’ veracity or accuracy is perhaps the most disputed aspect of his writing. Herodotus "invented" history as we know it, Dewald says, because he was the first to see these myriad stories from the past as small parts of one much bigger story — the story of the known human world. © 2020 The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved. Herodotus. Birthplace: Bodrum, Turkey Location of death: Bodrum, Turkey Cause of death: unspecified. Analyzing MotivesIf Herodotus was a Greek, was it possible for him to be completely objec-tive in his history? ” This shows how the style of writing by Herodotus is written through the belief of telling of the future and predictions which makes it not an accurate source of history. Homeric qualities can indeed be found in major elements of Herodotus’ writing, including the introductory proem. Explain. An even more basic debt to Homer is his choice of subject matter. Essays and criticism on Herodotus - Critical Essays. Herodotus (; Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey).He is known for having written the book The Histories (Greek language: Ἱστορίαι Historíai), a detailed record of his "inquiry" (ἱστορία historía) on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars.