Biography of Herodotus


HERODOTUS, the oldest Greek historian, and for this reason usually styled the "Father of History," was born in Halicarnassus, in Caria, 484 B.C. He appears to have early formed the resolution of writing an historical work on an extended scale, and with this view determined to visit and observe with his own eyes, the most remote countries and nations. Although the dates and extent of his travels are involved in obscurity, and sometimes even in contradictions in the ancient narratives, we gather from his own statements that in his early youth he visited the islands and coast of Asia Minor; that subsequently he devoted particular attention to Egypt, which was at that time little known; that he next visited Palestine and Phoenicia; and finally penetrated as far east as Babylon and Susa. We are also informed that he sailed through the Hellespont into the Black Sea, and visited all the countries situated on its shores. After his return he appears to have resided for a time at Athens. He afterwards withdrew to Thurii, in Italy, whither many of his fellow citizens had proceeded. Here, in all probability, he wrote his immortal work, in the decline of his life. According to Suidas, he died and was buried at Thurii about 418 B.C.

The purpose of Herodotus in his History is to describe the war between the Persians and the Greeks - the struggle for supremacy between Europe and Asia, between civilization and barbarism, between freedom and despotism. Herodotus wishing to indicate that the antipathy between the two was not the result of any accidental quarrel, but a deep-rooted difference of character, traces it back to the mythical ages. In the course of his History he gives an account of the various countries which he had visited. Wherever he gives the results of his own observations and inquiries, he exhibits a wonderful accuracy and impartiality and when he does not do this he is generally careful to say so. He has been accused of credulity, and it is certain that he too readily accepted statements on the authority of others, but that he was a keen intelligent observer of what he saw, is beyond dispute. His style is marked by an easy grace and lively vigor, and everywhere there is the presence of a reverent spirit, giving a certain air of moral dignity to the entire composition. He is esteemed by scholars the earliest and best of romantic historians.