Herodotus – The Father of History
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While many of the learned men from Ancient Greece were concerned with philosophy, mathematics, and science, there was one person who focused completely on history. Herodotus, in fact, is considered the Father of History because of his approach to the craft. He is credited as being the first individual to take historical information, analyze it, and compile it in a logical way in order to give an accurate retelling of an historical event. His goal was to make sure others knew how wonderful the Ancient Greeks were.
Early Life of Herodotus
Herodotus was born in a small town called Halicarnassus in 485 BC, which is actually located in today’s Turkey. However, at the time of his birth, that area was part of Ancient Greece. He was born into a wealthy family, which enabled him to become well educated. Just before he was born, the Persians actually invaded his town. So technically, Halicarnassus was part of the Persian Empire. The height Greco-Persian War occurred when he was a small boy, and the events that led to the Greeks defeating the Persians always fascinated him.
Exile from Halicarnassus
At some point, Herodotus was exiled from his home city of Halicarnassus to the island of Samos. The Persian dictator, Lygdamis, is most likely responsible for his exile. Since his whole family opposed the Persian Dictator’s rule, they were all exiled to Samos. After a while, it seems as if he returned to his home city in an attempt to help overthrow the dictator. These attempts, however, never amounted to anything.
During much of his exile, Herodotus traveled extensively. Though his family stayed in Samos for much of the duration of the exile, he spent his time traveling to places such as Macedonia, Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Delos. In his travels, he collected extensive historical data, and much of it was in the form of anecdotes and stories. This helped give his historical writings an air of authenticity.
Writing the Histories
The work that Herodotus is most famous for is called The Histories. It’s interesting to not that in his Histories, Herodotus abandoned the Dorian Greek dialect, which was the language spoken in his home time. He wrote them in the Ionian dialect. Whether or not he abandoned his own dialect intentionally is unclear. Could it be that he wanted to turn his back on his Dorian roots because of the presence of the dictator?
The Histories were basically his life’s work. His goal was to create a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars. Most of what we know about those wars today came about because of his writings. He was mainly concerned with not only giving a detailed account of what happened, but to also outline the reasons why the two major powers started fighting in the first place.
Critics of Herodotus don’t refer to him as The Father of History. They refer to him as The Father of Lies because they feel that he had an intentional bias against certain things and would purposefully leave them out of his accounts. For example, the Thebans and Corinhians didn’t support his work. As a result, he didn’t paint them in a favorable light in any of his historical accountings.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston