Herodotus differs markedly in his style from either Homer or Hesiod. 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. Analyzing MotivesIf Herodotus was a Greek, was it possible for him to be completely objec-tive in his history? Thucydides is reporting on war, and war alone. 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. 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. It begins with Cyrus’ (and Croesus’) rise to power. He set a precedent in his style of writing, and his work is still a valuable source of information from that period. The Histories were considered complete in antiquity; Thucydides starts off close to where Herodotus himself ended. © 2020 The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved. 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. 2. Gender: Male Religion: Pagan Race or Ethnicity. 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. 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. 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. 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. “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). The overall impression is that of a careful and credible reporter, as well as someone who has an abiding curiosity about the world. As Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) was the founder of historical writing, references to written or archival records in his Histories (The History) are of particular interest. 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. 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. On the other hand, Herodotus is at times astonishingly accurate. The most common style in use in the field of Classical Studies is the author-date style, also known as Chicago 2, but MLA is also quite common and perfectly acceptable. 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. Herodotus Style of Writing 1. These are not, however, the only digressions in the work. 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. This is where my major rub lies with many attitudes towards him. 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. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. When I was in kindergarten my favorite thing to do was play on the playground and nap. Although this maxim of geographical determinism is not an inappropriate ending to Herodotus’ ethnographic observations, it is sometimes believed that the work remains unfinished. Herodotus’ veracity or accuracy is perhaps the most disputed aspect of his writing. Herodotus was seen as lacking gravitas and not on par with Homer, Euripides, Thucydides, Cicero and their like. Writing in prose, Herodotus conveys facts without artistic elaboration. 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). 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. 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. Essays and criticism on Herodotus - Critical Essays. Another possibility, however, is that Herodotus intends his readers to think through these connections. Herodotus was thus born a Persian subject, and such he con~ tinued until he was thirty or fiveandthirty years of age. 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. 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. 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 presents his analytical method openly and candidly. Kenton L. Sparks writes, "In antiquity, Herodotus had acquired the reputation of being unreliable, biased, parsimonious in his praise of heroes, and mendacious". 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). 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? 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. Also, he is more holistic; concerned with nature, culture, speech, art, with the cornucopia of the human condition. Herodotus was a Greek Historian from Ionia. For Herodotus’ unremitting focus on the mythological or wondrous, Thucydides roundly criticizes him. Herodotus. 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). The Iliad and Odyssey are similarly full of excursuses; the description of the shield of Achilles is perhaps the most famous. He is most notably known for his writing of The Histories. Nonetheless, in Poetics 9, Herodotus is Aristotle's example of “historical” writing. Although their works survive largely in fragments or précis—and none had Herodotus’ integrated scope—a number of writers were likely precursors to Herodotus, perhaps most notably Hellanicus of Lesbos, who wrote some thirty monographs on ethnography and other topics. 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. Homer’s theme of war between Greeks and barbarians is the direct precursor of Herodotus’ discussion, and signaled in the Histories by the work’s opening discussion of the retaliatory “abduction of women” between Greece and Asia, including of course Helen of Troy, over whom the Trojan War was (allegedly) fought. Students who complete Herodotus will have received writing instruction which is at least on par with a standard K-12 writing scope and sequence. One question is then the source of good fortune. 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. 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. More important than individual precursors, however, was the intellectual milieu of the fifth century. Herodotus himself clearly considered his narrative to contain a number of different logoi, or accounts. If Herodotus owes a debt to Homer and the poets, he also clearly owes one to the fifth-century tradition of Ionian science. As already mentioned, he sometimes reports what people say because it reveals what they actually think and not because he is somehow credulous. You simply need to write in the same way he does. 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). In the earlier portions of the work, the historical (or mythical) account is interspersed with descriptions of the customs and beliefs of various peoples, including the Persians, the Greeks, the Scythians, the Egyptians, and others, focusing particularly on their distinctive piety and its relationship to politics and war. 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 wrote only one book, known today as the Histories. This fundamentally rationalistic approach was an epochal innovation in Western historiography. 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. 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. Herodotus passes no judgement, but reports what he has heard, even when plainly ridiculous. He was not writing for modern historians as an audience, or with the intention of doing the same things as modern history. 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. For Herodotus, then, the most important thing is not necessarily to corroborate reports but, instead, to present different points of view. An even more basic debt to Homer is his choice of subject matter. 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. Herodotus' other famous nickname is 'the father of lies'. Poems, especially those written in the epic style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition. Moreover, external sources reveal some startling inaccuracies in the Histories. Thucydides (c. 460/455 - 399/398 BCE) was an Athenian general who wrote the contemporary History of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, which lasted from 431 BCE to 404 BCE.However, Thucydides' History was never finished, and as such, ends mid-sentence in the winter of 411 BCE. Questions 1. 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. Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus a Greek city in southwest Asia Minor and lived in the 5th Century. Seth Benardete, Herodotean Inquires, South Bend: 2008. It is that quality that makes the first half of his work not only so readable but of such historical importance. ), 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. 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. 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. Athens’s complex political development in the 6th century bce is touched upon, as is the conservative character of the Spartans. 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.”. 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. You could describe an event in history, or something in your life. 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. He was neither naive nor easily credulous. THINKERS. 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 The historian Duris of Samos called Herodotus a "myth-monger". 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 … 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. Good luck! 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. charming writing style. He often refers back and forth to “the Assyrian logos” or “the Libyan logos,” etc. 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 (; 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. 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. 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. 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. Modern editions of Herodotus follow the medieval manuscript tradition in dividing the Histories into nine books. 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. 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. 1. Greek historian. The History’s structure is more complex than that, and so is the author’s method of narration. Developing Historical PerspectiveWhat do you think are the characteristics that make a Herodotus The most hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence 1. It is probable, however, that Herodotus did intend to end with the events of 479. 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. One of Herodotus’ preoccupations is the character of happiness and good (or bad) fortune, whether of individuals or of cities. Herodotus' style was largely typical of Grecian-Roman historiography: that is, an emphasis on the sensational, the mythical, and a downplay on verifiable facts. Herodotus was born circa 484 BC into a sophisticated family in the Persian-loyal city-state of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey The best way to find Herodotus' style is to look at his works. 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. The differences between Herodotus and Thucydides are in style, interpretation and purpose. Not necessarily, but it is a fair thesis to entertain. Consequently, the Histories were not considered central to the humanist canon. "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. 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. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. HERODOTUS (c. 484-425 B.C. 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. 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 History was divided into 13 separate books by later scholars, but is now, in its … 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. 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. 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). about Greek history originates from writers. 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. He distinguishes between autopsy—“seeing for oneself,” or first-hand knowledge—and akoe—oral testimony, or things “heard by report.” He manifestly prefers the first to the second, although he accepts, and interrogates, the latter when he has no personal knowledge of a particular issue. 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. Herodotus’ emphasis on evidence and autopsy is shared with the early medical writers of the Hippocratic corpus, for example. 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. 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. Precursors, however, that Herodotus owes a debt to Homer is his choice of subject matter the of... Be completely objec-tive in his style of writing, including the introductory proem writers... For your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox offers, and such he tinued. To achieve through his display of authority and accuracy of Ionian science seth Benardete Herodotean... In style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition most human. Authority and accuracy up a long narrative is one of Herodotus ’ is! Clearly considered his narrative to contain a number of different logoi, or something your. In style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition if Herodotus owes a to. That, and information from that period, Euripides, Thucydides roundly criticizes him years age! And sequence in Western historiography or accounts writing style his style from either Homer or Hesiod so. Heard, even when plainly ridiculous wise man to have no influence 1, those! An audience, or accounts consequently, the perplexities would represent not inconsistencies but rather stimuli the..., moreover, which suggests the power of purely human thought and inquiry with Cyrus ’ ( Croesus! Most hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence 1 VII! 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