Essays and criticism on Herodotus - Critical Essays. 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). Although this maxim of geographical determinism is not an inappropriate ending to Herodotus’ ethnographic observations, it is sometimes believed that the work remains unfinished. 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. For example, Herodotus had no need to explain Greek geography, customs, or political systems to his Greek readers, but he did wish to describe the political situation at the relevant times of the many Greek cities later involved in the war. 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. Herodotus is one of the first Western thinkers to consider deeply and comprehensively the wide range of human experience for good or ill, as well as the relationship between human beings to the divine. Similarly, in his political summaries he is commonly content with explaining events on the basis of trivial personal motives, yet there again he understood certain essentials: that the political meaning of the struggle between the great territorial empire of Persia and the small Greek states was not one of Greek independence only but the rule of law as the Greeks understood it; and that the political importance of the Battle of Marathon for the Greek world was that it foreshadowed the rise of Athens (confirmed by Salamis) to a position of equality and rivalry with Sparta and the end of the long-accepted primacy of the latter. Alternatively, Herodotus’ real interest may not be in accuracy, per se, but rather in using different stories to interrogate human nature. Of course, this leads to the question of whether the reversal is a divine response to transgression, the natural result of purely human overreaching, or, indeed, purely chance. Herodotus himself comments: “Some may believe this, but I do not.” Modern exploration has, of course, confirmed that this is indeed the case in the southern hemisphere. Poems, especially those written in the epic style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition. 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. It is probable, however, that Herodotus did intend to end with the events of 479. 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. Homer and Hesiod, on the other hand, both composed verse. The Histories. These are not, however, the only digressions in the work. Another possibility, however, is that Herodotus intends his readers to think through these connections. Herodotus was born circa 484 BC into a sophisticated family in the Persian-loyal city-state of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey Herodotus’ veracity or accuracy is perhaps the most disputed aspect of his writing. In Thucydides’ prefatory pages, commonly known as the Archaeology, Thucydides even identifies several Herodotean “errors,” although he never mentions Herodotus by name. For Herodotus’ unremitting focus on the mythological or wondrous, Thucydides roundly criticizes him. Herodotus was considered a historian, but he wrote a lot of mythology. 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. Plutarch’s view was that it was a rhetorical strategy, used to gain unjustified credibility for, essentially, mendacious testimony. 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. 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. Not necessarily, but it is a fair thesis to entertain. The historian Duris of Samos called Herodotus a "myth-monger". Herodotus presents his analytical method openly and candidly. THINKERS. Herodotus himself clearly considered his narrative to contain a number of different logoi, or accounts. It concludes with the battle of Mycale, which, along with the battle of Plataea, ended the second Persian invasion of Greece, with the Greeks victorious. And his combative rhetorical style is reminiscent of the Sophists. ), Greek historian, called the Father of History, was born at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, then dependent upon the Persians, in or about the year 484 B.C. Cicero calls Herodotus the “father of history,” but Plutarch calls him “the father of lies.” Thucydides’ inveighing against those who “write display pieces for immediate hearing” would also seem to have been directed against Herodotus. The differences between Herodotus and Thucydides are in style, interpretation and purpose. One question is then the source of good fortune. Consequently, the Histories were not considered central to the humanist canon. This fundamentally rationalistic approach was an epochal innovation in Western historiography. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus a Greek city in southwest Asia Minor and lived in the 5th Century. HERODOTUS (c. 484-425 B.C. One important and, indeed, remarkable feature of Herodotus’s History is his love of and gift for narrating history in the storyteller’s manner (which is not unlike Homer’s). Students who complete Herodotus will have received writing instruction which is at least on par with a standard K-12 writing scope and sequence. Herodotus was a Greek Historian from Ionia. Herodotus' style was largely typical of Grecian-Roman historiography: that is, an emphasis on the sensational, the mythical, and a downplay on verifiable facts. He was not writing for modern historians as an audience, or with the intention of doing the same things as modern history. For Herodotus, then, the most important thing is not necessarily to corroborate reports but, instead, to present different points of view. It is that quality that makes the first half of his work not only so readable but of such historical importance. Herodotus’ emphasis on evidence and autopsy is shared with the early medical writers of the Hippocratic corpus, for example. 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. The story of Xerxes’ invasion of Greece is a clear illustration of the moral viewpoint here; a war that by all human reasoning should have been won was irretrievably lost. 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). He often refers back and forth to “the Assyrian logos” or “the Libyan logos,” etc. Homer’s famous epics are the Iliad and the Odyssey, an experience of godlike warriors fighting during the Trojan War and a treacherous journey back home. 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. In addition to studying the customs (nomoi) of various people, Herodotus is also interested in natural and divine phenomena (floods, for example). Seen in this light, the perplexities would represent not inconsistencies but rather stimuli to the education of the attentive reader. Herodotus’s History is an account of the Greco-Persian Wars (499–479 BCE) and the story of the growth and organization of the Persian empire. 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. 3. Explain. He knew that war was not only a question of victory or defeat, glorious as the Greek victory was, but brought its own consequences in its train, including the internal quarrels and rivalry between the leading Greek city-states, quarreling that was to later culminate in the devastating internecine strife of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 bce). Herodotus. The History was divided into 13 separate books by later scholars, but is now, in its … If Herodotus owes a debt to Homer and the poets, he also clearly owes one to the fifth-century tradition of Ionian science. 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. Analyzing MotivesIf Herodotus was a Greek, was it possible for him to be completely objec-tive in his history? 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. In Herodotus’ so-called Lydian logos, the Athenian Solon (one of seven wise men of ancient Greece) offers a rumination on fortune, happiness, and the god to the wealthy Lydian king Croesus. 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. Birthplace: Bodrum, Turkey Location of death: Bodrum, Turkey Cause of death: unspecified. You could describe an event in history, or something in your life. Herodotus was thus born a Persian subject, and such he con~ tinued until he was thirty or fiveandthirty years of age. He set a precedent in his style of writing, and his work is still a valuable source of information from that period. The two themes, however, do not always appear to be integrated, which is sometimes considered a reason to think our text is not in the final form intended by Herodotus. The best way to find Herodotus' style is to look at his works. The reasons for these divisions are not entirely clear—the books are not all the same length, and so cannot correspond to the length of a scroll (as was common in antiquity)—and, moreover, these divisions themselves would often seem to break up the material arbitrarily. Herodotus, in other words, may be scrutinizing and comparing the various accounts articulated by various peoples. Good luck! 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. The Greek word that forms its title, historiai, from which our word “history” derives, means inquiries—and so a more accurate title might be the Inquiries of Herodotus of Halicarnassus. Making InferencesWhy do you think Herodotus would call his work “researches” or “inquiries”? 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 was a great traveler with an eye for detail, a good geographer, a man with an indefatigable interest in the customs and past history of his fellow citizens, and a man of the widest tolerance, with no bias for the Greeks and against the barbarians. 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’ 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. The important question is what Herodotus was trying to achieve through his display of authority and accuracy. By the mid-fifth century BCE writing in Greece had existed for only about 300 years. "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. 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. Athens’s complex political development in the 6th century bce is touched upon, as is the conservative character of the Spartans. He was neither naive nor easily credulous. 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. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. As already mentioned, he sometimes reports what people say because it reveals what they actually think and not because he is somehow credulous. May this rule govern my entire work” (VII 152, 3). This he achieved by means of digressions skillfully worked into his main narrative. Writing in prose, Herodotus conveys facts without artistic elaboration. © 2020 The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved. charming writing style. Greek historian, called the Father of History, was born at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, then dependent upon the Persians, in or about the year 484 BC. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, many Western scholars have questioned the veracity of Herodotus’s historical record from the angle of writing style, narrative model, the use of sources, and purpose of writing. Herodotus to me reads something like a prose epic with lots of drawn out similes and metaphors and vocabulary that could be drawn from the Iliad or Odyssey. He is most notably known for his writing of The Histories. Herodotus covers the empire’s geography, social structure, and history before describing the events which led to Xerxes’ invasion of Greece and the Greek city-states uniting to defeat his army. The Histories are as much driven by ethnographic inquiry as they are by what we would typically call “history.” The thorny question of the relationship between these inquiries and the Persian Wars is a puzzle that the work raises but does not explicitly answer. 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 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. For example, Herodotus mistakenly says the pass at Thermopylae runs north to south (VII 176, 3), while his account of Upper Egypt in Book II is so notorious for its many errors that some question whether he travelled to Egypt at all. ” 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. To Herodotus, the old moral “pride comes before a fall” was a matter of common observation and had been proved true by the greatest historical event of his time. Herodotus announced the purpose and scope of his work at the beginning of his Histories: 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 History’s structure is more complex than that, and so is the author’s method of narration. Greek historian. Herodotus (/hɪˈrɒdətəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἡρόδοτος, Hêródotos, 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 … 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. 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. Thucydides is reporting on war, and war alone. This is where my major rub lies with many attitudes towards him. Homeric qualities can indeed be found in major elements of Herodotus’ writing, including the introductory proem. The Iliad and Odyssey are similarly full of excursuses; the description of the shield of Achilles is perhaps the most famous. 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. Herodotus wrote only one book, known today as the Histories. These logoi were possibly originally intended as independent monographs or perhaps as performance pieces—there is substantial (reported) evidence that Herodotus gave oral recitations during his travels in Greece—which might explain the tenuous links between them and the main narrative. 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. The Histories were considered complete in antiquity; Thucydides starts off close to where Herodotus himself ended. 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 accuracy of the works of Herodotus has been controversial since his own era. Also, he is more holistic; concerned with nature, culture, speech, art, with the cornucopia of the human condition. Gender: Male Religion: Pagan Race or Ethnicity. Writers like Homer, Thucydides, Plato, Herodotus and more had their own writing style. 2. Herodotus, however, unlike Homer, writes in prose, not poetry. Herodotus was seen as lacking gravitas and not on par with Homer, Euripides, Thucydides, Cicero and their like. Whether this is the Herodotean view of happiness (or not) is a much-debated question, but the work is manifestly full of stories of hubris followed by reversal. Seth Benardete, Herodotean Inquires, South Bend: 2008. “This is the bitterest pain among men,” Herodotus writes in one of his final thoughts, “to have much knowledge but no power” (IX 16, 10). 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. Indeed, some of the dialogues that Herodotus presents—for instance the famous discussion of the nature of the regime between Darius and his fellow conspirators (III 80–3)—remind one of the set piece rhetorical debates for which the Sophists were famous. 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. He makes no invocation to the muse, moreover, which suggests the power of purely human thought and inquiry. Developing Historical PerspectiveWhat do you think are the characteristics that make a All of this, and much besides, some of it only included because of Herodotus’s personal interest, helps to explain the positions of these Greek states in 490, the year of the Battle of Marathon, and in 480, the year in which Xerxes invaded Greece. 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. Herodotus differs markedly in his style from either Homer or Hesiod. This fundamentally rationalistic approach was an epochal innovation in Western historiography. Histories were written largely for popular consumption, and they were not often intended as scholarly works, but as a preservation of popular myths at the time of the writing. It begins with Cyrus’ (and Croesus’) rise to power. Current scholarship generally schematizes the Histories as containing twenty-eight main logoi. Herodotus Style of Writing 1. 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 biggest effect of the difference amongst the two historian’s style of writing is the fact that Einhard’s history of Charlemagne’s life gives information that makes it seem as if the events were realistic, while some of the events that Herodotus talks about seem conjured. As Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) was the founder of historical writing, references to written or archival records in his Histories (The History) are of particular interest. On the other hand, Herodotus is at times astonishingly accurate. 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. You simply need to write in the same way he does. Herodotus’ Historiesfamously 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.” 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 … Kenton L. Sparks writes, "In antiquity, Herodotus had acquired the reputation of being unreliable, biased, parsimonious in his praise of heroes, and mendacious". An even more basic debt to Homer is his choice of subject matter. More important than individual precursors, however, was the intellectual milieu of the fifth century. Overall, the Histories narrates the events culminating in the great Persian Wars between the city-states of Greece and the empire of Achaemenid Persia. 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). 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. 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. Modern editions of Herodotus follow the medieval manuscript tradition in dividing the, GREAT © 2020 the Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved reporter as. 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