Herodotus (hērŏd´ətəs), 484?–425? BC, Greek historian, called the Father of History, b. Halicarnassus, Asia Minor. Only scant knowledge of his life can be gleaned from his writings and from references to him by later writings, notably the Suda. He traveled along the coast of Asia Minor to the northern islands and to the shore of the Black Sea; he also at some time visited Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Egypt. By 447 BC he was in Athens, and in 443 he seems to have helped to found the Athenian colony of Thurii in S Italy, where he probably spent the rest of his life completing his history. That classic work, the first comprehensive attempt at secular narrative history, is the starting point of Western historical writing. It is divided into nine books named for the Muses (a division made by a later editor). Herodotus was the first writer to evaluate historical, geographical, and archaeological material critically. The focus of the history is the story of the Persian Wars, but the extensive and richly detailed background information put Greece in its proper historical perspective. He discusses the growth of Persia into a great kingdom and traces the history and migration of the Greek people. Among his grand digressions are fascinating histories of Babylon, Egypt, and Thrace, as well as detailed studies of the pyramids and specific historical events. The value of the work lies not only in its accuracy, but in its scope and the rich diversity of information as well as the charm and simplicity of his writing.

See translations of his history by G. Rawlinson (1858), A. de Selincourt (1954), R. Waterfield (1998), and A. L. Purvis (2007); studies by J. L. Myres (1953, repr. 1971), C. W. Fornara (1971) and J. A. Evans and F. Hartog (1982); W. W. How and J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus (2 vol., rev. ed. 1928); H. R. Immerwahr, Form and Thought in Herodotus (1966); D. Hamel, Reading Herodotus (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Herodotus: Selected full-text books and articles

Brill's Companion to Herodotus By Egbert J. Bakker; Irene J. F. De Jong; Hans Van Wees Brill, 2002
On the War for Greek Freedom: Selections from the Histories By Herodotus; James Romm; Samuel Shirley Hackett, 2003
Herodotus By T. R. Glover University of California Press, 1924
FREE! Herodotus By Herodotus; William Beloe Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, vol.1, 1830
The History of Herodotus By J. Enoch Powell University Press, 1939
The Greek Historians By T. J. Luce Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Herodotus and Historia" and Chap. 4 "Father of History"
Greek Historiography By Simon Hornblower Clarendon Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Herodotus and Religion" and Chap. 3 "Herodotus on Alexander I of Macedon: A Study in Some Subtle Silences"
A Biography of Philosophy By Julian Marías; Harold C. Raley University of Alabama Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Historical Knowledge in Herodotus"
The Greek World By Anton Powell Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Twelve "Herodotus on Egyptian Buildings: A Test Case"
The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle By George Anastaplo Ohio University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VIII "Herodotus"
The History of History By James T. Shotwell Columbia University Press, vol.1, 1939 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XIII "From Homer to Herodotus" and Chap. XIV "Herodotus"
Helen of Troy and Her Shameless Phantom By Norman Austin Cornell University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Herodotus and Helen in Egypt"
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.