Key Pages:

Archaeologies of the Greek Past - Home

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

by Faustino Mora

Herodotus is undoubtedly the “Father of History.” Born in Halicarnassus in Ionia in the 5th century B.C., he wrote “The Histories.” In this text are found his “inquiries” which later became to modern scholars to mean “facts of history.” He is best known for recounting, very objectively, the Greco-Persian wars of the late 5th century. He is revered for his honesty as he explains in his writing that he is not sure of the veracity of the supposed events and scenes that occurred but is only writing down what he gathers from his numerous travels through the Greek world.

Much of his biography remains uncertain. Gathering from his own works and accounts of his travels, Herodotus must have come from a relatively wealthy family. It is believed that he was exiled from Halicanassus by the tyrant Lygdamis and lived in Samos until he returned to assist the removal of his foe. He spent time in Athens and even joined the colony of Thurii. He was buried either in Thurii or in Pella, which is in the Macedonian region.

Herodotus is most well known for his historical accounts. He is remembered as being arguably the very first historian ever. He explicitly states in his introduction that he wishes to preserve the events in order for the Greeks and the barbarians to receive their due. Filled with digressions and seemingly insignificant tales such as that of Kleobis and Biton, Herodotus includes a complete story with as much information as he can gather. His best work was divided into nine books and each book was named for a muse, Cloi being the first and the historian muse.

Herodotus maintains a very unique objective perspective during his retelling. In the first six books, he recounts the growth of the Persian Empire, including the fall of the Lydian king Croesus at the hands of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. In the last three, the subject is the vengeance of the Persian ruler Xerxes who desires to avenge the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon and finally annex Greece into his empire, with very little success.

Although his accounts may not have all been historically factual, they do provide readers with a look into the various historical situations at the time. It is from Herodotus and his fellow authors that archaeology has been able to classify and better understand findings and excavation sites. Much is owed, not only to Herodotus’ own account of late fifth-century Greece, but to the rich legacy that he bestowed on the future.

Uploaded Image

Uploaded Image

Whitley, James. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. (New York, 2007). 66-9, 72-3, 153, 192, 224-5, 245-6, 329.

Barbour, Amy L. Selections from Herodotus. (Boston, 1964). 1-6, 49-204.

Posted at Dec 12/2007 07:46AM:
keffie: Nice work!

Posted at Dec 16/2007 10:20PM:
Kuy Yeon Lee: I think Herodotus is one of the most important figures in ancient Greece... in terms of... providing literary evidence of that period. Love the last picture=)