Herodotus (Ancient Greek Historian)

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Herodotus (c. 484 – c. 425 BC) is credited for having invented the field of study we know today as “history” (1).

He was an Ancient Greek historian who came on to the scene around the time of the Persian Wars (499-449 BC). He was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family in Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey), a multicultural Greek city that no longer exists today but was once home to Greeks, Carians, and Persians located within the Persian Empire. Although we can know little in the way of biographical information on Herodotus it is safe to assume that he was well educated as reflected in his later writings.

He is most well-known and appreciated for his work The Histories which some scholars consider to be the founding work of western history (2). Herodotus was the first ancient writer to employ a systematic approach and historiographic narrative to his source materials. Histories, divided into nine books, chronicles the rise of the Persians and the Greco-Persian Wars (499-479 BC) during the 5th century BC. It proves to be a valuable historical source for historians even despite the fact that it presents historians with some archaeological and historical difficulties. The work is also quite coloured, highly influenced by some of Herodotus’ views and opinions on various people, customs, and events he mentions within it. For one, he had a particular admiration for the poet Homer (c. 750 BCE) and it is also apparent that Herodotus held himself in high regard.

Herodotus also travelled widely. Again, where he traveled is not beyond the realm of scholarly criticism but it is generally believed that he voyaged through the east Mediterranean, Africa, and Asia Minor (3). During his travels he wrote down his experiences which he shared with others (the the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, for example) before settling down for a while in Thurii, a Greek colony located in Italy. There he continued working on Histories before moving to Athens where he probably died from a plague.

References

1. Ancient History Encyclopedia (Mark, J). 2018. Herodotus. Available.

2. Arnold, John. 2000. History: A Very Short Introduction. p. 17.

3. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Herodotus Greek historian. Available.

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