home   :    ancient Greece   :   index    :    article by Jona Lendering ©

Herodotus of Halicarnassus

Herodotus. Bust in the Agora Museum, Athens (Greece). Photo Marco Prins.
The Greek researcher and storyteller Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century BCE) was the world's first historian. In The Histories, he describes the expansion of the Achaemenid empire under its kings Cyrus the Great, Cambyses and Darius I the Great, culminating in king Xerxes' expedition in 480 BCE against the Greeks, which met with disaster in the naval engagement at Salamis and the battles at Plataea and Mycale. Herodotus' remarkable book also contains excellent ethnographic descriptions of the peoples that the Persians have conquered, fairy tales, gossip, legends, and a very humanitarian morale. (A summary with some historical comments can be found here.)

This is the eighth part of an article in eight pieces.

Prologue
Herodotus' life
Herodotus' originality
Herodotus on causality
Herodotus' sources
Herodotus as a
topographer/ethnographer
Herodotus the moralist
Further reading

Contents of 
The Histories

The Aegean region in the fifth century BCE. Design Jona Lendering.

Further reading

The standard edition of the Greek text of The Histories was published by K. Hude in the Oxford Classical Texts (1960). Other editions vary from this text on minor details only.

There are several commentaries on Herodotus. Asheri, Lloyd and Corcella, A Commentary on Herodotus Books I-IV (2007) is now the main text, but has not yet fully replaced the old Commentary on Herodotus by W.W. How and J. Wells. Excellent is the commentary on Herodotus. Book Two by Alan Lloyd. Its three volumes appeared in Leiden between 1975 and 1988. They are a treasury of information on Herodotus' Egyptian logoiand have an important appendix on chronology; the corresponding chapters in the Asheri/Lloyd/Corcella commentary are essentially a summary and update of these books.

J. Gould's study on Herodotus (1987 London) is a good introduction and gives enough clues to find more specialized literature. Brill's Companion to Herodotus by Egbert Bakker, Irene de Jong and Hans van Wees (eds.; 2002 Leiden) is your guide for further study. Important is Pierre Briant's study on the Achaemenid empire, Historie de l' empire Perse. De Cyrus a Alexandre (1996 Paris). It is the first comprehensive study of the subject. Those interested in Herodotus' Greek topography must try to obtain Dietrich Müller's Topographischer Bildkommentar zu den Historien Herodotos', I: Greece 1987 Tübingen; II: Asia Minor 1997 Tübingen).
 

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
  Some specialized literature: Silvana Cagnazzi's article 'Tavola dei 28 logoi di Erodoto' on Herodotus' logoi can be found in the journal Hermes 103 (1975), page 385-423. Fehling's Die Quellenangabe bei Herodot. Studien zur Erzählkunst Herodots was published in 1971 in Berlin (English translation: Herodotus and his 'sources'. Citation, invention and narrative art, 1989 New York). It should be supplemented by R. Rollinger, Herodots babylonischer Logos. Eine kritische Untersuchung der glaubwürdigkeitsdiskussion (1993, Innsbruck). On the functions of the ethnographical digressions in general: Rosaria Vignolo Munson, Telling Wonders: Ethnographic and Political Discourse in the Work of Herodotus (2002 Ann Arbor).

On the Persian Wars, one might read C. Hignett's very detailed and clever Xerxes' invasion of Greece (1963, Oxford). A.R. Burn's Persia and the Greeks. The defence of the West, c.546-478 B.C. (second edition: 1984 London) also discusses some cuneiform evidence. One could also read Peter Green's The Greco-Persian wars (1996, Berkeley), which is a revised and updated edition of an older book.

A fine novel about the Persian court, and the relations between Greece, Persia, India and even China is Creation by Gore Vidal (published in 1981). Don't believe everything you read, but it is fun.

 
 
home   :   ancient Greece   :   index   :    Herodotus