One of the first to attempt to write down an account of the past, Herodotus helped create a historic heritage that continues to today.
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There are two ways to look at the question of who developed history. The initially, of course, is that no one invented it; History is simply the outcome of the slow unfurling of time and the actions of those that have lived and also passed away within its murky eddies. But the examine of those actions, which we likewise speak to history, has a much more definite start. For many type of of us in the Western civilization this particular day, it began through a man named Herodotus.
Called “the father of history” by the Roguy statesman Cicero, Herodotus is the author of the first authoritative historic message of any size. The Histories is a multi-volume account of the Greco-Persian wars, filled through informative digressions that expectancy from Egypt to the near East. (It additionally offered us extremely the word history, which meant inquiry in the original Greek). To this day, Herodotus is regularly cited by scholars as a resource of indevelopment on the lands and civilizations of his time.
Of course, Herodotus wasn’t quite a historian as we could think of today. His account, which relied greatly on oral sources and also second-person retellings, is replete with instances of fantasy. His tendency towards credulousness additionally earned him the somewhat much less flattering appellation, “father of lies,” based upon the many critiques of his work that began quickly after The Histories was publiburned.
Herodotus was not the first to create down history. Greeks before him, notably Hecataeus of Miletus, had actually additionally written down their accounts of historic occasions. But no one before Herodotus had attempted to compile the kind of in-depth record of a significant historical events that The Histories represents. Thturbulent it, Herodotus attempts to display not simply what taken place, yet why, scholars say.
The First Historian
Of Herodotus the man, bit is well-known. He was born in the city of Helicarnassus, in contemporary Turcrucial, and which was then part of the Persia realm. He traveled widely, even as a fairly young male, venturing to Egypt, and then moving to Athens. Herodotus reportedly visited components of the Middle East, including Babylon and also present-day Palestine and Syria, and also Macedonia and eastern Europe, reaching the Black Sea and the Danube River.
Along the means, he gathered interviews from locals, collecting their accounts of their very own backgrounds and also of the even more far-flung world they encountered. Herodotus was a curious man: He writes of his attempts to explain the seasonal flooding of the Nile, and to map the lineage of the Greek gods earlier to ancient Egypt, among other points. He additionally most likely offered oral performances of portions of his historic works to public audiences in Greece, a common exercise at the moment.
Herodotus’ exercise was often simply to create down everything he was told, and also at times qualifying the accounts via his own observations. This halittle might be part of the factor Herodotus has regularly been criticized of outright confabulation. We hear of headless males with eyes in their chests in Libya and gold-digging ants in India that are larger than a fox (currently thought to be marmots). It’s unclear whether Herodotus meant to portray these stories as truth, or if he sindicate intended to catalogue what he had actually been told by various human being as he traveled.
For these reasons and others, Herodotus’ works attracted hefty criticism in primitive Greece. The chronicler Thucydides, that likely attracted a lot catalyst from The Histories, took pains to call Herodotus out for what he viewed as inaccuracies and biases. And the Greek thinker Plutarch, composing some three centuries later on, mounts an also greater assault, saying that Herodotus’ work-related was biased in favor of non-Greeks, and questioning the historian’s judgement. Today, scholars take a more well balanced view of Herodotus the historian. Though his tales might not always be truthful, tbelow is much that Herodotus obtained right — and also his insights into the Greek human being and also past at the time are nearly unparalleled.
Occasional fantasies aside, Herodotus also reported on a lot that was true. Alongside the headless creatures, he writes of impalas, gazelles and elands in Africa, and of Ethiopians wrapped in lion skins through long bows made of palmhardwood. Environpsychological scientific research and biology present up as well. Herodotus reported on the yearly flooding of the Nile, and also speculates on what brought about it. He notes the astonishing development of crocodiles: “No mortal creature of all which we understand grows from so small a start to such greatness; for its eggs are not a lot bigger than goose eggs, and also the young crocodile is of a proportional dimension, yet it grows to a size of twenty-eight feet and also more.”
A (Mostly) True Account
Herodotus took it upon himself to correct what he observed as the inaccuracies of authors before him. He provides a conflicting account of the occasions relayed by the epic poet Homer that started the now-legendary Trojan War. The battle is intended to have been instigated once a Trojan kidnapped Helen, wife of the Spartan king Menelaus. But Herodotus, based upon research throughout his time in Egypt, dismisses this as mere myth; Helen was actually in Egypt the entirety time, he counters, blown off course in the time of a sea journey.
The Histories also includes what is most likely the more specific version of the legendary story of a lone runner transferring the news of the Greeks’ victory at the Battle of Marathon to Athens, before perishing of exhaustion. But Herodotus’ account rather involves a runner being sent from Athens to Sparta before the fight (a a lot larger distance of around 150 miles) to ask for assist, and then the entire Athenian army marching back to Athens after the battle to confront a Persian fleet bearing down on the city.
But more modern-day historians have actually noted inconsistencies throughout Herodotus’ writings, that they say show he may never have visited some of the locations he claims. For instance, he never once mentions the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, among the salso wonders of the ancient people, despite having actually allegedly traveled there.
But Herodotus has actually been vindicated in other means. For instance, a watercraft newly discovered in the Nile delta matches almost exactly his description of a curious kind of barge-favor watercraft provided tright here.
And his account of the Greco-Persian battle, the primary subject of The Histories, is also hosted to be greatly true. To lay out the complete story of the battle, Herodotus begins a lot additionally back, describing the history of Persia, and Athens and also Sparta, and also the accomplishments and also follies of plenty of royal characters alengthy the way. Along through the location and also facilities of areas he visits, Herodotus imparts numerous monitorings on the world and also customizeds he encounters, or which he is told about along the way.
In this meandering way, Herodotus lastly involves a lengthy summary of the various military engagements of the war itself, a decades-long dispute that would specify the course of background during his life time and also for years afterward. That story alone would certainly qualify his work-related as an important item of historic writing — yet it is the many type of and also varied digressions he embarks upon that specify the true worth of The Histories this day.
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Herodotus presents us with insights right into the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Scythia and even more. Given his is among the earliest functions of pincreased in presence, The Histories is often scholars’ ideal source for accounts of these societies, even 2,500 years after Herodotus' death. And beyond that, as many type of historians suggest out, it’s additionally simply a really fun check out.