INTRODUCTION The fifth-century BC Greek writer Herodotus is often called the first scholarly historian. Best known for his History of the Persian Wars (also known as the The Histories or The History), a wide-ranging, multivolume historical consideration of the causes and outcomes of the Greco-Persian Wars during the period from 499 to 479 BC, Herodotus is the first writer known to have gathered and tested the validity of multiple source materials in order to posit causal historical relationships. Herodotus also pioneered the scholarly process of deriving historical claims from present circumstances. He drew his sources for The Histories from personal experience, indirect accounts, and mythical supposition, leading some scholars, both ancient and modem, to question the validity of his account. The Histories also demonstrates the influence of Greek epic poetry and dramatic narrative, indicating Herodotus's familiarity with other Greek writers, including Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Solon, and Aesop. Herodotus's wealth of personal experience stemmed from his extensive travels through the Mediterranean world and various Persian territories, including Egypt, the Greek Islands, and the Black Sea region. He collected myths, legends, and historical notes from each region he visited, and these later served as his source material for The Histories. Herodotus's reputation as the first scholarly historian also rests on his pioneering distinction between the legendary and verifiable past, a distinction based on close textual scholarship intended to identify inaccuracies, contradictions, and heretical accounts. Herodotus's work inspired other Greek and Roman historical writers, most notably Thucydides, Cicero, and Plutarch. While some of Herodotus's claims have been disproved, the majority of his assertions regarding the history of the Greco-Persian Wars in The Histories have been deemed accurate by modem scholarship, a validation that has bolstered his academic reputation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION Bom around 484 BC to a father named Lyxes and a mother named Rhaeo in the Ionian Greek city of Halicarnassuslocated in Asia Minor on the west coast of modern-day Turkey-Herodotus was raised under the rule of the tyrant Lygdamis as a subject of the Persian Empire. Because Halicamassus remained culturally Greek despite Persian control, Herodotus was exposed to classical Greek concepts of democratic rule at a young age, and he received a classical Greek education emphasizing the study of rhetoric, gymnastics, and music. Herodotus's uncle was the then wellknown Greek epic poet Panyassis, who was later executed for treason against Lygdamis's rule in Halicamassus. As a young man, Herodotus periodically left Halicamassus on extensive travels, which exposed him to many of the lands and peoples that made up the Persian Empire, before he moved permanently from Halicarnassus in 457 BC. According to one legend, probably apocryphal, Herodotus moved after taking part in a failed rebellion against Lygdamis's rule. After leaving Halicarnassus, Herodotus settled temporarily in the city of Athens on the Greek mainland. He arrived during the period of Athens's greatest achievements and interacted with such noted Athenian historical figures as the statesman Pericles, the orator Antiphon, the philosopher Zeno of Elea, and the playwrights Euripides and Sophocles. It was in Athens where Herodotus first presented The Histories through public readings that were well received and possibly witnessed by a youthful Thucydides. Despite this success, Herodotus stood little chance of achieving citizenship in Athens and in 446 BC, around the age of forty, he took part in the foundation of the Athenian colony of Thurii, near the tip of the Italian Peninsula. Herodotus lived in Thurii for the remainder of his life, and during his time there, he continued to expand and revise The Histories and possibly began work on a history of Assyria. Like the year of his birth, the year of Herodotus's death is also uncertain, but he most likely died around 425 BC at the age of sixty. MAJOR WORKS Herodotus's only major surviving work is The Histories, which he composed and edited throughout his life. After his death, The Histories was divided into nine volumes accounting for the Greco-Persian Wars from 499 to 479 BC, with the first five volumes looking back beyond the beginning of the war to describe the rise of the Persian Empire and the next four concerning the war itself. Each volume is ostensibly limited to a different historical aspect of the origins and execution of the war. The first volume covers the growth of the Persian Empire under the emperor Cyrus II and his Lydian vassal, King Croesus. The second and third volumes describe the Persian annexing of Egypt under Cyrus's successor, Cambyses II, and Cambyses II's shortcomings as a ruler. The third, fourth, and fifth volumes concern the empire's expansion under Darius and the revolt of the Greek Ionian city states. The sixth volume relates the first Persian invasion of Greece under Darius and the Persian defeat at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The seventh, eighth, and ninth volumes concern the emperor Xerxes I's subsequent invasion of Greece and the Persian defeats at the battles of Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale in 480 and 479 BC. Each volume of The Histories expands beyond its ostensible subject matter to include Herodotus's numerous observations and stories concerning the peoples and places mentioned. In this sense, The Histories is as much an anthropological, ethnographic, and geographical work as it is a work of history, and differs from the earlier Greek travelog works in its comprehensive approach to detailing foreign cultures. Herodotus also pioneered the use of dramatic storytelling techniques in presenting historical narrative, borrowing such methods as physical characterization and the reporting of mental processes from the Greek epic poet Homer. Herodotus rarely expresses his own views of the events he reports in The Histories, and the work is notable, especially among ancient texts, for its considerably objective presentation of the historical claims and faults of different nations. Herodotus's simple but dynamic prose style also proved to be an important influence on both future Greek historians, such as Thucydides, and early protonovelists, including Chariton and Heliodorus. Many Herodotean commentators, both ancient and modem, have questioned the validity of Herodotus's account of the Greco-Persian Wars. Most notable among these is Herodotus's immediate successor, Thucydides, who criticized The Histories for being more concerned with entertainment than with fact. Despite this criticism, Thucydides borrowed many of Herodotus's scholarly techniques for historical study and writing to compose his own works. Herodotus also influenced the Greek writer Ctesias, whose historical studies were popular during his lifetime but largely disproved after his death. Thucydides's criticisms and Herodotus's connection to Ctesias hurt Herodotus's scholarly reputation in the classical, medieval, and Renaissance worlds, but The Histories survived as a document and continued to enjoy great popularity. Herodotus's scholarly reputation was revived in the twentieth century by new historical and archeological evidence suggesting that many of the accounts in The Histories are supported by fact and are worthy of academic consideration. CRITICAL RECEPTION Many critics have focused on Herodotus's role as the first scholarly historian, emphasizing his methods for gathering source materials and arranging his historical narrative. Truesdell S. Brown (1954; see Further Reading) examined how Herodotus's approach to composing The Histories developed from disparate intellectual influences in the classical Mediterranean world, particularly Greek prose writers, or logographers, who were writing just before or during Herodotus's time. K. H. Waters (1974; see Further Reading) argued that the narrative structure of The Histories is governed by the concerns of historical scholarship but leaves room for engaging narratives and digressions to entertain the reader, a departure from earlier semihistorical works, which tended to take the form of a chronicle or catalog. According to Donald Lateiner (1985), "Herodotus’ report on distant places and by-gone times attempted to overcome his contemporaries’ conceptual limitations." Other critics have considered the influence of Greek epic poetry and dramatic technique on Herodotus's writing, noting that Herodotus borrowed many such techniques in order to propel his historical narrative and stimulate readers’ interest. Charles C. Chiasson (2003) noted Herodotus's appropriation of the themes of Greek tragic narrative in The Histories in his treatment of the stories of Atys and Adrastus, Gyges and Candaules, and Croesus's funeral pyre scene. David M. Johnson (2001) also studied Herodotus's use of dramatic storytelling techniques and ironic meaning in his relation of the speeches of the Corinthian ambassador Socles and the Spartan king Leotychides. Critics have also noted Herodotus's ethnographic and anthropological studies in The Histories-inclusions that expand the work's scope beyond the relation of historical record. David Asheri (1988) focused on Herodotus's portrayal of Thracian society in The Histories and his efforts to include "extraordinary" Thracian source material in his narrative in order to portray the Thracians as an exotic people. Several critics have considered Herodotus's influence on later historians and historical writers. J. A. S. Evans (1968) examined Herodotus's contradictory reputation among later writers, including his successor Thucydides and the Roman authors Cicero and Plutarch, as both the "father of history" and a source of historical falsehoods. Antonios Rengakos (2005) traced ways in which Herodotus's use of dramatic, plotted structures has influenced the writing of history from the time of Thucydides to the present day. Craig Bames
"Herodotus (484?-425? BC), An Introduction to." Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 163, Gale, 2014. Literature Criticism Online, http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FPWRNOR089814750%2FLCO%3Fu%3Dkenyon%26sid%3DLCO%26xid%3Deee48e8f. Accessed 22 Mar. 2018.
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