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Ostensible bust of Herodotus
Born c. 484 BC
Halicarnassus, Caria, Asia Minor
Died c. 425 BC
Thurii, Calabria or Pella, Macedon
Occupation Historian

Herodotus (Greek: Ἡρόδοτος Hēródotos) was an ancient Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC). He is regarded as the "Father of History" in Western culture. He was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative.[1] He is exclusively known for writing The Histories, a record of his "inquiries" (or ἱστορίαι historiae, a word that passed into Latin and took on its modern meaning of history) into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars which occurred in 490 and 480-479 BC—especially since he includes a narrative account of that period, which would otherwise be poorly documented; and many long digressions concerning the various places and peoples he encountered during wide-ranging travels around the lands of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Although some of his stories were not completely accurate, he claimed that he was reporting only what had been told to him.


The Histories

The Histories, otherwise known as The Researches or The Inquiries, were divided by Alexandrian editors into nine books, named after the nine Muses - the "Muse of History", Clio, representing the first book, followed by Euterpe, Thaleia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania and Calliope for books 2-9 respectively.[2] At its simplest and broadest level of meaning, The Histories is structured as a dynastic history of four Persian kings:

  • Cyrus, 557-530 BC: Book 1;
  • Cambyses, 530-522 BC: Book 2 and part of Book 3;
  • Darius, 521-486 BC: the rest of Book 3 then Books 4,5,6;
  • Xerxes, 486-479 BC: Books 7, 8, 9.

Within this basic structure, the author traces the way the Persians developed a custom of conquest and shows how their habits of thinking about the world finally brought about their downfall in Greece.[3] However, this central theme is often merely a background to a broad range of inquiries and, as Herodotus himself observes, "Digressions are part of my plan" (Book 4, 30).[4] The digressions can be understood to cover two themes: an account of the history of the entire, known world as governed by the principle of reciprocity (or what today might be more commonly called an eye for an eye and one good turn deserves another); and an account of the many astonishing reports and sights gained by the author during his extensive travels.[5][6] In an age when philosophers increasingly sought to understand the world according to basic principles, Herodotus's method of enquiry presents a world where everything is potentially important.[7]

His place in history

His statue in Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus. He has been called "The Father of History" (first conferred by Cicero) and "The Father of Lies".[8]As these epithets imply, there has long been a debate—at least from the time of Cicero's On the Laws (Book 1, paragraph 5)—concerning the veracity of his tales and, more importantly, the extent to which he knew himself to be creating fabrications.

Herodotus announced the size and scope of his work at the very beginning of his Researches or Histories:

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, his Researches are here set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of other peoples; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict.[9]

The extent of his own achievement has been debated ever since. His 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, temple and civic records, sometimes melodramatic and naive, often charming - all traits that can be found in the work of Herodotus himself.[10] Hecataeus of Miletus is the best known of his predecessors. Only fragments of his work survive (and the authenticity of these is debatable)[11] yet they allow us glimpses into the kind of tradition within which Herodotus wrote his own Histories, as for example in the introduction to Hecataeus's work, Genealogies:

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 opinion absurd.[12]

This clearly points forward to the 'folksy' yet 'international' outlook typical of Herodotus and yet one modern scholar, reading between the lines, has described the work of Hecataeus as "a curious false start to history"[13] because, in spite of its critical spirit, it still failed to liberate history from myth. Herodotus actually mentions Hecataeus in his Histories, on one occasion mocking him for his naive genealogy and, on another occasion, quoting Athenian complaints against his predecessor over his handling of Athenian history.[14] It is possible that Herodotus borrowed a lot of material from Hecataeus, as stated by Porphyry in a quote recorded by Eusebius[15] yet there is no proof that he derived the ambitious scope of his own work, with its grand theme of civilizations in conflict, from any predecessor, known or unknown, despite a lot of scholarly speculation about this in modern times.[16][17]

His debt to previous authors of prose 'histories' might be questionable but there is no doubt that he owed much to the example and inspiration of poets and story-tellers - Homer in particular provided Herodotus with inspiration for writing history on an epic scale.

"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 appears." - George Rawlinson[18]

Just as Homer drew extensively on a tradition of oral poetry, sung by wandering minstrels, so 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, and these are compiled by Herodotus in an entertaining style and format.[19] 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'.[20] Even his own contemporaries found reason to scoff at his achievement. In fact one modern scholar[21] has wondered if Herodotus left his home in Asiatic Greece, 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 dedicated to Herodotus at Thuria (one of his three supposed resting places):

Herodotus the son of Lyxes here
Lies; in Ionic history without peer;
A Dorian born, who fled from Slander's brand
And made in Thuria his new native land.[22]

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, produced The Acharnians, in which he blames The Peloponnesian War on the abduction of some prostitutes - a mocking reference to Herodotus, who traced the origin of The Persian Wars to the rapes of the mythical heroines Io, Europa, Medea and Helen.[23][24] Similarly, the Athenian historian Thucydides dismissed Herodotus as a 'logos-writer' or story-teller.[25] 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 Herodotus with his frequent digressions appeared to minimize (or possibly disguise) his authorial control.[26] Moreover, Thucydides developed a historical topic more in keeping with the Greek lifestyle - the polis or city-state - whereas the interplay of civilizations had been a topic more relevant to Asiatic Greeks(such as Herodotus himself), for whom life under foreign rule had been a recent memory.[27]

Although The Histories were often criticized in antiquity for bias, inaccuracy and plagiarism — Lucian of Samosata 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 Blessed — 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[28] yet his reputation continues largely intact: "The Father of History is also the father of comparative anthropology",[29] "the father of ethnography"[30] and he is "more modern than any other ancient historian in his approach to the ideal of total history."[31]

Life of Herodotus...


As told by other 'liars'

As mentioned earlier, Herodotus has sometimes been labeled 'The Father of Lies' due to his tendency to report fanciful information. Much of the information that others subsequently reported about him is just as fanciful, some of it is vindictive and some of it is blatantly absurd, yet it is interesting and therefore worth reporting: Herodotus himself reported dubious information if it was interesting, sometimes adding his own opinion about its reliability.

Plutarch, a Theban by birth, once composed a "great collection of slanders"[32] against Herodotus, titled On the Malignity of Herodotus, including the allegation that the historian was prejudiced against Thebes because the authorities there had denied him permission to set up a school. Dio Chrysostom similarly attributed prejudice against Corinth to the historian's bitterness over financial disappointments[33], an account supported by Marcellinus in his Life of Thucydides.[34] 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.[35] Thus the accounts given by Plutarch and Chrysostom may be regarded as 'pay-back'.

Herodotus wrote his Histories in the Ionian dialect yet he was born in Halicarnassus, originally a Dorian settlement. According to the Suda (an 11th-century encyclopaedia of Byzantium which likely took its information from traditional accounts), Herodotus learned the Ionian dialect as a boy living on the island of Samos, whither he had fled with his family from the oppressions of Lygdamis, tyrant of Halicarnassus and grandson of Artemisia I of Caria. The Suda also informs us that Herodotus later returned home to lead the revolt that eventually overthrew the tyrant. However, thanks to recent discoveries of some inscriptions on Halicarnassus, dated to about that time, we now know that the Ionic dialect was used there even in official documents, so there was no need to assume like the Suda that he must have learned the dialect elsewhere.[36] Moreover, the fact that the Suda is the only source we have for the heroic role played by Herodotus, as liberator of his birthplace, is itself a good reason to doubt such a romantic account.[37]

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 Asia Minor to the Olympic Games and read the entire Histories to the assembled spectators in one sitting, receiving rapturous applause at the end of it..[38] According to a very different account by an ancient grammarian,[39] Herodotus refused to begin reading his work at the festival of Olympia until some clouds offered him a bit of shade, by which time however the assembly had dispersed - thus the proverbial expression "Herodotus and his shade" to describe any man who misses his 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, Photius[40] and Tzetzes,[41] in which a young Thucydides happened to be in the assembly with his father and burst into tears during the recital, whereupon Herodotus observed prophetically to the boy's father: "Thy 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.[42] According to the Suda, he was buried in Macedonian Pella and in the agora in Thurium.[43]

As told by other historians

Modern scholars generally turn to Herodotus's own writing for reliable information about his life,[44] very carefully supplemented with other ancient yet much later sources, such as the Byzantine Suda:

"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[45].

Typically modern accounts of his life go something like this:[46][47] 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 time and maybe the young 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. 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, and 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 sometime before 454 BC. Herodotus reveals 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 on Samos and followed by some personal hand in the tyrant's eventual fall.

As 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 countries under Persian rule, facilitating his travels and his researches. His eye-witness accounts indicate that he travelled in Egypt probably sometime after 454 BC or possibly earlier in association with Athenians, after an Athenian fleet had assisted the uprising against Persian rule in 460-454 BC. He probably travelled to Tyre next and then down the Euphrates to Babylon. For some reason, probably associated with local politics, he subsequently found himself unpopular in Halicarnassus and, sometime around 447 BC, he migrated to Periclean Athens, a city for whose people and democratic institutions he declares his open admiration (V, 78) and where he came to know not just leading citizens such as the Alcmaeonids, a clan whose history features frequently in his writing, but also the local topography (VI, 137; VIII, 52-5). According to Eusebius[48] and Plutarch,[49] Herodotus was granted a financial reward by the Athenian assembly in recognition of his work and there may be some truth in this. It is possible that he applied for Athenian citizenship - a rare honour after 451 BC, requiring two separate votes by a well-attended assembly - but was unsuccessful. 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 indeed 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. Either way, there is nothing in the Histories that can be dated with any certainty later than 430 and it is generally assumed that he died not long afterwards, possibly before his sixtieth year.

Analysis and recent discoveries

Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.
Reconstruction of the Oikumene (inhabited world) ancient map from Herodotus, c. 450 BC.

Herodotus provides a lot of intriguing information concerning the nature of the world and the status of the sciences during his lifetime, often engaging in private speculation.

Croesus Receiving Tribute from a Lydian Peasant, by Claude Vignon.

He reports, for example, 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 dismissive 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 argued that Africa was indeed 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 outsider. [50]

Gold dust and nuggets.

Discoveries made since the end of the 19th century have added to his credibility. His description of Gelonus, located in Scythia, as a city thousands of times larger than Troy 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 extensive credibility to Herodotus's previously unsupported claim that Heracleion was founded under the Egyptian New Kingdom.

One of the most recent developments in Herodotus scholarship was made by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel. On his journeys to India and Pakistan, Peissel claims to have discovered an animal species that may finally 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. Now, Peissel says that in an isolated region of Pakistan, in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir that is known as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA), on the Deosai Plateau there exists a species of marmot, (the Himalayan Marmot), (a type of burrowing squirrel) that may solve the mystery of Herodotus' giant "ants". Much like the province that Herodotus describes, the ground of the Deosai Plateau is rich in gold dust. 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. The story seems to have been widespread in the ancient world, later authors like Pliny the Elder mentioning it in his gold mining section of the Naturalis Historia.

Bobak marmot in central Asia.

Even more tantalizing, in his book, "The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas", Peissel offers the theory that Herodotus may have become confused because the old Persian word for "marmot" was quite similar to that for "mountain ant". Because research suggests that Herodotus probably did not know any Persian (or any other language except his native Greek), he was forced to rely on a multitude of local translators when travelling in the vast multilingual Persian Empire. Therefore, he may have been the unwitting victim of a simple misunderstanding in translation. As Herodotus never claims to have himself seen these "ant/marmot" creatures, it is likely that he was simply reporting what other travellers were telling him, no matter how bizarre or unlikely he personally may have found it to be. In an age when most of the world was still mysterious and unknown and before the modern science of biology, the existence of a giant ant may not have seemed so far-fetched. The suggestion that he completely made up the tale may continue to be thrown into doubt as more research is conducted.[51][52]

With that said, Herodotus did follow up in passage 105 of Book 3, with the claim that the "ants/marmots" are said to chase and devour full-grown camels; again, this could simply be dutiful reporting of what was in reality a tall tale or legend told by the local tribes to frighten foreigners from seeking this relatively easy access to gold dust. On the other hand, the details of the "ants" seem somewhat similar to the description of the camel spider (Solifugae), which are said to chase camels, have lots of hair bristles, and could quite easily be mistaken for ants. On account of the fear of encountering one, there have been "many myths and exaggerations about their size".[53] Images of camel spiders[54][55] could give the impression that this could be mistaken for a giant ant, but certainly not the size of a fox.

See also


  1. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary, "Herodotos", Oxford University Press
  2. ^ Larcher, Pierre-Henri (1829). Larcher's Notes on Herodotus. London: John R. Priestley. pp. 526. 
  3. ^ Robin Waterfield (trans.) and Carolyn Dewald (ed.), The Histories by Herodotus, University of Oxford Press (1998), Introduction pages xii - xiii
  4. ^ Aubrey de Selincourt (trans.), Herodotus:The Histories, Penguin Classics (1972), page 280
  5. ^ Robin Waterfield (trans.) and Carolyn Dewald (ed.), The Histories by Herodotus, University of Oxford Press (1998), Introduction pages xvii
  6. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 189
  7. ^ Robin Waterfield (trans.) and Carolyn Dewald (ed.), The Histories by Herodotus, University of Oxford Press (1998), Introduction pages xvii
  8. ^ David Pipes. "Herodotus: Father of History, Father of Lies". Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  9. ^ Aubrey de Selincourt (trans.), Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 41
  10. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 23, citing Dionysius On Thucydides
  11. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 27
  12. ^ FGH I, F.I
  13. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 188
  14. ^ Histories II.143, VI.137
  15. ^ Preparation of the Gospel, X,3
  16. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 188
  17. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, pages 22-3
  18. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.1, D.Appleton and Company, New York (1859), page 6 Google copy
  19. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 190-91
  20. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 10
  21. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.1, D.Appleton and Company, New York (1859), page (details later)
  22. ^ A.R.Burn, 'Introduction' in Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 13
  23. ^ The Peloponnesian War Lawrence A.Tritle, Greenwood Publishing Group 2004, page 147-48
  24. ^ Herodotus and Greek History John Hart, Taylor and Francis 1982, page 174
  25. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 191
  26. ^ Robin Waterfield (trans.) and Carolyn Dewald (ed.), The Histories by Herodotus, University of Oxford Press (1998), Introduction pages xviii
  27. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 191
  28. ^ Fehling, Detlev. Herodotos and His "Sources": Citation, Invention, and Narrative Art. Translated by J.G. Howie. Arca Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers, and Monographs, 21. Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1989.
  29. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics, 1972, page 10
  30. ^ C. P. Jones, ("ἔθνος and γένος in Herodotos"), The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 46 (2):315; 1996
  31. ^ Oswyn Murray, 'Greek Historians' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (ed.s), Oxford University Press (1986) page 189
  32. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.1, D.Appleton and Company, New York (1859), page 14
  33. ^ Dio Chrysostom Orat. xxxvii
  34. ^ Marcellinus, Life of Thucydides
  35. ^ A.R. Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics (1972), pages 8,9,32-4
  36. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics (1972), page 11
  37. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 11
  38. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 14
  39. ^ Montfaucon's Bibliothec. Coisl. Cod. clxxvii p 609 (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 14
  40. ^ Photius Bibliothec. Cod. lx p 59 (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 15
  41. ^ Tzetzes Chil. 1.19 (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 15
  42. ^ Marcellinus, in Vita. Thucyd. p ix (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 25
  43. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 25
  44. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics (1972), page 7
  45. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), page 1)
  46. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), Introduction)
  47. ^ A.R.Burn, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Classics (1972), Introduction
  48. ^ Eusebius Chron. Can. Pars. II p339, 01.83.4 (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), Introduction)
  49. ^ Plutarch De Malign. Herod. II p862 A (cited by George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol.I, D.Appleton and Co., New York (1859), Introduction)
  50. ^ The Indian Empire The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 272.
  51. ^ Simons, Marlise. Himalayas Offer Clue to Legend of Gold-Digging 'Ants'. New York Times: 25 November 1996.
  52. ^ Peissel, Michel. "The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas". Collins, 1984. ISBN 978-0002725149.
  53. ^ Wikipedia. "Solifugae". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  54. ^ Camel Spiders (Main Page)
  55. ^ Camel Spiders (Pictures)


  • Several English translations of The Histories of Herodotus are readily available in multiple editions. The most readily available are those translated by:
    • C.E. 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 the right.
    • David Grene, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
    • 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.
    • Aubrey de Sélincourt, originally 1954; revised by John Marincola in 1996. Several editions from Penguin Books available.
    • Strassler, Robert B., (ed.), and Purvis, Andrea L. (trans.), The Landmark Herodotus, Pantheon, 2007. ISBN 978-0-37542109-9 with adequate ancillary information.
    • Robin Waterfield, with an Introduction and Notes by Carolyn Dewald, Oxford World Classics, 1997.


  • Bakker, Egbert e.a. (eds.), Brill's Companion to Herodotus. Leiden: Brill, 2002
  • Dewald, Carolyn, and John Marincola, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006.
  • Evans, J. A. S., Herodotus. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.
  • —. Herodotus, Explorer of the Past: Three Essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.
  • Flory, Stewart, The Archaic Smile of Herodotus. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987.
  • Fornara, Charles W. Herodotus: An Interpretative Essay. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.
  • Harrington, John W., To See a World. C. V. Mosby Company, 1973. Harrington explored Herodotus's deduction that deltas, including Egypt's, were deposited over a great period of time.
  • Hartog, F., "The Invention of History: From Homer to Herodotus". Wesleyan University, 2000. In History and Theory 39, 2000.
  • Hartog, F., The Mirror of Herodotus. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988.
  • Immerwahr, H., Form and Thought in Herodotus. Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University Press, 1966.
  • Kapuscinski, Ryszard, "Travels with Herodotus". New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf, 2007.
  • Lateiner, D., The Historical Method of Herodotus. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989.
  • Marozzi, Justin, The Man Who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus. London: John Murray, 2008.
  • Momigliano, A., The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography. University of California Press, 1992.
  • Pritchett, W. K., The Liar School of Herodotos. Amsterdam: Gieben, 1991.
  • Romm, James S. Herodotus. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 1998 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-07229-5; paperback, ISBN 0-300-07230-9).
  • Thomas, R., Herodotus in Context; ethnography, science and the art of persuasion. Oxford University Press 2000.
  • Selden, Daniel. "Cambyses' Madness, or the Reason of History," Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 42 (1999), 33-63.
  • Simons, Marlise. Himalayas Offer Clue to Legend of Gold-Digging 'Ants'. New York Times: 25 November 1996.
  • Peissel, Michel. "The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas". Collins, 1984. ISBN 978-0002725149.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos) (c. 484 BCc. 425 BC) was a historian, known for his writings on the conflict between Greece and Persia, as well as the descriptions he wrote of different places and people he met on his travels.


The Histories

  • I know that human happiness never remains long in the same place
    • Book 1, Ch.5
  • Men trust their ears less than their eyes.
    • Book 1, Ch. 8
  • When this response reached Croesus, it afforded him far more pleasure than anything else the oracle had told him, because he was sure that a mule would never replace a man as the Persian king, and that in consequence he and his descendants would rule for ever. He next turned his mind to investigating which was the most powerful Greek state, so that he could gain them as his allies. As a result of his enquiries, he discovered that Lacedaemon and Athens were the outstanding states, and that Lacedaemon was populated by Dorians while Athens was populated by Ionians. For these two peoples—the one Pelasgian, the other Hellenic—had been pre-eminent in the old days. The Pelasgians never migrated anywhere, but the Hellenes were a very well-travelled race. When Deucalion was their king, they were living in Phthia, but in the time of Dorus the son of Hellen they were in the territory around Mounts Ossa and Olympus, known as Histiaeotis. Then they were evicted from Histiaeotis by the Cadmeans and settled on Mount Pindus, where they were called Macedonians. Next they moved to Dryopis, and from Dryopis they finally reached the Peloponnese and became known as the Dorians.[1]
    • Book 1, Ch. 56
  • In peace sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
    • Book 1, Ch. 87
  • It was a kind of Cadmean victory.
    • Book 1, Ch. 166
    • (Refering to a victory where both sides suffer extreme losses. Derived from the legends of Thebes, where the sons of Oedipus, and hence descendents of Cadmus, fought to the death.)
  • I am going to talk at some length about Egypt, because it has very many remarkable features and has produced more monuments which beggar description than anywhere else in the world.
    • Book 2, Ch. 35
  • From great wrongdoing there are great punishments from the gods.
    • Book 2, Ch. 120
  • If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.
    • Book 2, Ch. 173
  • It is better to be envied than pitied.
    • Book 3, Ch. 52
    • variant: How much better a thing it is to be envied than to be pitied.
  • Force has no place where there is need of skill.
    • Book 3, Ch. 127
  • The Scythians take kannabis seed, creep in under the felts, and throw it on the red-hot stones. It smolders and sends up such billows of steam-smoke that no Greek vapor bath can surpass it. The Scythians howl with joy in these vapor-baths, which serve them instead of bathing, for they never wash their bodies with water.
    • Book 4, Ch. 74
  • Tell your king (Xerxes), who sent you, how his Greek viceroy (Alexander I) of Macedonia has received you hospitably.
    • Book 5, Ch. 20, 4 (Loeb)
  • Now, that these descendants of Perdiccas are Greeks, as they themselves say, I myself chance to know.
    • Book 5, Ch. 22, 1 (Loeb)
  • But Alexander (I of Macedon), proving himself to be an Argive, was judged to be a Greek; so he contended in the furlong race and ran a dead heat for first place.
    • Book 5, Ch. 22, 2
  • It is the gods' custom to bring low all things of surpassing greatness.
    • Book 7 , Ch. 10
  • Haste in every business brings failures.
    • Book 7, Ch. 10
  • When life is so burdensome death has become a sought after refuge.
    • Book 7, Ch. 46
  • Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.
    • Book 7, Ch. 49
  • Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.
    • Book 7, Ch. 50
  • It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.
    • Book 7, Ch. 50
  • I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.
    • Book 7, Ch. 152
  • Although he had plenty of troops he did not have many men.
    • Book 7, Ch. 210
  • The Lacedaemonians fought a memorable battle; they made it quite clear that they were the experts, and that they were fighting against amateurs.
    • Book 7, Ch. 211
  • Before battle was joined they say that someone from Trachis warned him how many Persians there were by saying that when they fired their bows, they hid the sun with the mass of arrows. Dianeces, so the story goes, was so dismissive of the Persian numbers that he calmly replied, "All to the good, my friend from Trachis. If the Persians hide the sun, the battle will be in shade rather than sunlight."
    • Book 7, Ch. 226
  • Stranger, tell the people of Lacedaemon
    That we who lie here obeyed their commands.
    • Book 7, Ch. 228
  • From Peloponnesos (came) the Lakedaimonians..., the Corinthians..., the Sikyonians..., the Epidaurians..., the Troiezenians... All these (groups)... belong to the Dorian and Macedonian nation (and) had emigrated last from Erineus and Pindos and Dryopis.
    • Book 8, Ch.43
  • "It is sound planning that invariably earns us the outcome we want; without it, even the gods are unlikely to look with favour on our designs."
    • Book 8, Ch. 60
  • "At sea your men will be as far inferior to Greeks as women are to men." (By Artemisa, the best persian warrior in Salamina, a very courageous woman. A superbe irony!)
    • Book 8, Ch.68
  • "My men have turned into women and my women into men!"
    • Book 8, Ch.88
  • It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.
    • Book 8, Ch. 98
    • variant: Not snow, no, nor rain, nor heat, nor night keeps them from accomplishing their appointed courses with all speed. (Book 8, Ch. 98)
      • Paraphrase: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"
        • Appears carved over entrance to Central Post Office building in New York City.
  • The king's might is greater than human, and his arm is very long.
    • Book 8, Ch. 140
  • This is the bitterest pain among men, to have much knowledge but no power.
    • Book 9, Ch. 16
    • variant: Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing.
  • Men of Athens... In truth I would not tell it to you if I did not care so much for all Hellas; I myself am by ancient descent a Greek, and I would not willingly see Hellas change her freedom for slavery. I tell you, then, that Mardonius and his army cannot get omens to his liking from the sacrifices. Otherwise you would have fought long before this. Now, however, it is his purpose to pay no heed to the sacrifices, and to attack at the first glimmer of dawn, for he fears, as I surmise, that your numbers will become still greater. Therefore, I urge you to prepare, and if (as may be) Mardonius should delay and not attack, wait patiently where you are; for he has but a few days' provisions left. If, however, this war ends as you wish, then must you take thought how to save me too from slavery, who have done so desperate a deed as this for the sake of Hellas in my desire to declare to you Mardonius' intent so that the barbarians may not attack you suddenly before you yet expect them. I who speak am Alexander the Macedonian.
    • Book 9, Ch.45 (ed. A. D. Godley)
      • (The speech of Alexander I of Macedonia when he was admitted to the Olympic games)
  • In soft regions are born soft men.
    • Book 9, Ch. 122


  • Call no man happy till he dies..
    • Herodotus actually attributes this to Solon in a conversation with King Crœsus.
    • Variants:
    • Deem no man happy, until he passes the end of his life without suffering grief
    • Many very wealthy men are not happy, while many who have but a moderate living are fortunate; and in truth the very rich man who is not happy has two advantages only as compared with the poor man who is fortunate, whereas this latter has many as compared with the rich man who is not happy. The rich man is able better to fulfil his desire, and also to endure a great calamity if it fall upon him; whereas the other has advantage over him in these things which follow: — he is not indeed able equally with the rich man to endure a calamity or to fulfil his desire, but these his good fortune keeps away from him, while he is sound of limb, free from disease, untouched by suffering, the father of fair children and himself of comely form; and if in addition to this he shall end his life well, he is worthy to be called that which thou seekest, namely a happy man; but before he comes to his end it is well to hold back and not to call him yet happy but only fortunate. Now to possess all these things together is impossible for one who is mere man, just as no single land suffices to supply all things for itself, but one thing it has and another it lacks, and the land that has the greatest number of things is the best: so also in the case of a man, no single person is complete in himself, for one thing he has and another he lacks; but whosoever of men continues to the end in possession of the greatest number of these things and then has a gracious ending of his life, he is by me accounted worthy, O king, to receive this name.
  • Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give lustre, and many more people see than weigh.
  • Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal; while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.
    • Though widely attributed to Herodotus this in fact comes from the Histories of Polybius, Book 16, chapter 28: "Some men, like bad runners in the stadium, abandon their purposes when close to the goal; while it is at that particular point, more than at any other, that others secure the victory over their rivals". (Translation of Evelyn S Shuckburgh).
  • The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.
    • The words of Socrates, as quoted by Diogenes Laertius.
  • Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.
    • This statement is not to be found in the works of Herodotus. It appears in the acknowledgements to Mark Twain's A Horse's Tale (1907) preceded by the words "Herodotus says", but Twain was simply summarizing what he took to be Herodotus' attitude to historiography.


  1. Herodotus, translated by Robin Waterfield; Carolyn Dewald (1998). The Histories. Oxford University Press. pp. 23-24. ISBN 0192824252, 9780192824257.

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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  • enPR: hĕ.rŏdʹət.əs


From Latin Herodotus, from Ancient Greek Ἡρόδοτος (Hēródotos).

Proper noun




  1. An ancient historian who lived from 484 to 425 BC.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Greek historian, ca. 484-425 bce, see Herodotus.

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Simple English

File:Herodotus Massimo
Herodotus of Helicarnassus
Herodotus of Helicarnassus was an Ancient Greek historian who lived between 484 BC and 425 BC. He was probably born to a rich family in Halicarnassus, a town in south-west Asia Minor (which is now Bodrum, Turkey).

Herodotus is considered by many to be the "Father of History" for his writings about the ancient empires of Babylon, Egypt, and Persia, and about the Ancient Greeks.

During his life, Herodotus probably told his stories in front of large numbers of people in Greek cities. He may have been paid money for this. He is now most famous for his writings about the wars between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states. He told the story from the Greek side, although the war was mostly finished when he was still a child.

In his books, Herodotus tells us that he travelled a lot. He says that he went to what is now Italy, the Ukraine, Egypt, and Sicily. He may also have travelled to Babylon. He often used stories from people he met to write about other places and happenings.

Some people think that Herodotus wrote about things that were not true. This is possible, but it is also possible that he thought these things were true. It may also be that he thought that these stories were interesting. His work is important because he lived so long ago and there is very little writing on these subjects from this time.


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