Who was Herodotus What are they Interests?
Humans have been exploring ever since the first evolution of the species when it was imperative to go far and wide in search of food or safe shelter. Eventually, the earliest human societies may have migrated vast distances to explore richer resources which would ensure better survival of their community.
However, the proper history of human exploration can be said to have begun with the ancient Greeks, since they were one of the earliest to document their expedition and thus provide a reference point to scholars of the later centuries, at least in the European world. And among the explorer of classical Greece, one name stand tall – Herodotus of Halicarnassus.
Priest of Past
Today, Herodotus is primarily known as the person who carved out the field of study which the modern world known as’ history ‘. Cicero, the famous writer and orator of classical Rome in fact hailed Herodotus as, ‘The Father of history’. This accolade was mainly based on Herodotus’ famous work, the history which was published in 415 BC.
The exhaustive book is divided in nine chapters, each being dedicated to one of the Muses who in Greek Mythology are the goddesses of the various arts such as music, dance and poetry and who were believed to inspire artist to reach ever greater creative and intellectual heights.
The First Chapter is presided over by Clio, the muse of History after which the book goes on to describes the exploits of four Persian kings. The first of them is Cyrus after which Herodotus deal with the event in the reign of Cambyses.
The reign of the Persia King Darius take up the largest chunk of the world and continues till chapter 6. Finally, the exploits of the Persian King Xerxes are deal with the in the Chapter 7 and 8, which in effect rounds off The Histories.
In all , The Histories provides a fascinating account of the Greek scholar’s travels Greece., Egypt, Asia Minor, accounts of important historical events like the ‘Battles of Marathon and Peluseum’ as well as descriptions of The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
This was a time when the division between various fields of knowledge was not as clearly marked as in modern times. A single scholar was often an expert in writing narratives of historical events, travelling to new place, enunciating philosophical theories, dealing with matters of state and even perhaps fighting in wars. Thus, the role of historian, philosopher, statesman, fighter and explorer often merged and this was what happened in the case of Herodotus too.
Things About of Herodotus
In the prologue to his The Histories, Herodotus mentions that he is native of Halicarnassus which lies on the south-west coast of Asian Minor, in modern-day Turkey. Little else is clear about his life but it seems fairly certain that he failed from a prosperous family, since he was not only able to fund his own education but the high quality of his writings in The Histories suggests that he had studied in one of the best schools of the day. This view is also based on his proficiently in Ionian dialect of Greek, knowledge of which was available to select students during those times.
Also Herodotus’ ability to travel for leisure and at will suggests that he had resources to private income and was not dependent on any employer. Suring his travels, he might have at some point served in the army, since his accounts of wars are quite accurate and moistly from the perspective of a foot soldier.
Eventually, Herodotus it thought to have settled down in the Italian island of Thurii which was a Greek colony at the time, though there some historical accounts that he may have returned to Athens a uneasy relationship with his birthplace.
Evidence form an 11th-century Byzantine lexicon, the Suda, suggests that he was as some point banished from Halicarnassus by the ruler Lygdamis and had to leave for the island of Samos. He returned to his place of birth to support the rebellion against Lygdamis but again fell afoul of the populace because of which he was forced to leave for Thurii.
Herodotus died sometimes between 425 and 413 BCE, probably because of the plague in Athens. Interestingly more than one city, Athens and Thurii among them, claimed to be the last resting place of the famous historian and constructed memories in his honour-yet another example of the vast popularity and influence that Herodotus commanded in his day.
Herodotus As Scout
As an explorer, Herodotus is mainly remembered for his remarkable tales of travels Egypt, down into Africa and further east in Asia Minor. His book mentions his travels or well- known places like Babylon, Thrace, Scythia, Colchis, the Persian capital city of Susa as well through the islands of Archipelago. He seems to have not only touched the shores of Black Sea, gaping till as far the Dnieper but his mention of Gaza implies that he knew about Palestine as well.
The enthusiastic tales of his travel have exposed Herodotus to disbelief, both during his own times and later on as well. In his, The Histories, he talks of ‘The Seven Wonders of the World’ and while describing Babylon, he lavishes praise on the vast size of the city as well as hundred gates set in the wall boarding the city. Modern archaeology has come to the wall boarding the city.
Modern archeology has come to the conclusion that Babylon’s territorial dimensions were much more modest than claimed by Herodotus and the city had around eight instead of the hundred as appears in the writings of Herodotus.
Similar accounts of other accident cities and cultures in Africa and Asia Minor Appear to be too fantastic to be true later scholars have pointed out that many are widely diverging from facts- in fact some historians when believe that the only travel Herodotus did was in his mind and all the descriptions of his explorations through new lands and cultures are largely the figment of his imagination.
It is only recently that modern wildlife and ethnographic expeditions have found some Kernel of truth in what has been largely seen as Herodotus’ tall stories. One chapter in The Histories mentions his travels through West Asia where he claims to have come across accounts of ants the Size of Foxes and which, incredibly, when digging their mounds throw up gold sand.
For log such accounts have been regarded as fabulous and catering to a gullible reading audience, hunger for fantasies of man and beast in different cultures. It was only recently 1984 that French scientist Michel Pessler noted that a fox-shaped marmot indeed existed in the Himalayas where certain slopes containing gold nuggets may have dug up by these creatures, thus giving the appearances of gold-digging animals to the local populace who lived nearby.
Also Pessler remarked that the local word for the marmot was very similar to what translated as,“mountain ant” and Herodotus may have confused the two with the result that he thought the creature was a giant size ant when what he was actually describing was a type of marmot. So though Herodotus may have indulged in a little embroidery of facts- in keeping with the demands of contemporary audience-modern research is showing that his major discoveries may not have been quite so far off the mark.
Yet, another aspect that the apparently fantastic’s tales of Herodotus need to be considered from is that of literary conventions. In those times, writers primarily plied their craft to come up with works that could be narrated in a public space, like Homer’s Iliad, and not silently read in the isolation of library.
This oral context may have influenced Herodotus to embroider his book, The Histories with assume elements of fantasy and exaggeration so that his audiences could be regaled. It was not until 415 BC, towards the end of his life that The Histories was published in the proses from and till then it can safely assumed that its popularity was largely due to efficiency as oral performance pieces.
Though the accounts of his travels and important events are not always strictly accurate, what these writings lose out on authenticity often make up in impact. Herodotus is able to put has reader right in the midst of the events of The Histories by creating vivid scenes with interesting characters and , sometimes, even dialogue. In fact, one of the main reasons why The Histories of Herodotus became popular in his time was because of their interesting nature which may not have pleased the Servest critics but ensured the lasting appeal of the books and in the process the survival of these documents down the centuries. It is quite likely that because of their popularity, The Histories have lived to tell the tale of contemporary travels and historical events, and had they been arid realistic versions, they may have been last to obscurity.
The Histories in Context
In weaving the elements of history, geography, mythology and the fantastic, Herodotus was largely following the conventions of his time. History as the objective retelling of important events of the past was not yet known and writers often merged various elements as well as their own subjective attitudes into such accounts. The same probably was true of Herodotus as well.
Thus, it is likely that because both the The bans and Corinthians refused to offer him patronage, they come out quite negatively in his works whereas since Athens granted him ample funds for his travels and writing, the city-state band its events are represented more positive in The Histories. even in the accounts of his travels, Herodotus was rarely and impartial observe; in fact, the descriptions of new place, people, cultures and costumes are mingled with legendary strains of his personal opinions and what he thought of all that he saw.
In the end, no matter what the level of authenticity he maintains, this is much beyond doubt that Herodotus did more than other writers of his day to document the events of the immediate past and in a structured from which in turn is the only one to have survived form of The Histories.
No account of Histories can be complete without putting it in context to Homer’s Iliad to which it party aspires and from which it partly turns away. That Herodotus was largely inspired by the Iliad and looked upon Homer with domination is not doubt, since he structures the larger arrangement of his The Histories on Homer’s from in epics like Iliad. Similarly, the passage on Babylon in The Histories bears much resemblance to Homer’s description of Egyptian Thebes in the epics.
And yet Herodotus was no mere emulator of the master’s literary style and narrative and in fact questioned the historical veracity of The Iliad, pointing out that it is highly improbable that the Achaean’s would wage such a lengthy and costly campaign as the Trojan War just to get back a woman.
Even more importantly, Herodotus differed from Homer on the basic premise of this work. While the great epic writers like homer before him and Virgil later on followed the literary convection of calling upon the gods of offer divine inspiration for their works, Herodotus did not feel the need to seek any divine assistance of this king. He was quite clear that The Histories was the result of his own efforts and gleaned from his own travels.
Histories and their Importance in Development
Though today The Histories of Herodotus is largely credited as the first attempt at documenting historical events in the ancient would, theory importance in the history if human exploration is no less significant. Herodotus’ qualification in the first chapter of his The Histories that the book is about the exploits of man and not necessarily about the feats of gods and their human subjects is a trailblazer in itself.
The root would of history is the Greek historian which was originally used to describe investigation and inquiry. In keeping with this original meaning, Herodotus’ The Histories are an attempt to inquire upon human achievements by travelling far beyond the limits of his country, sometimes by witnessing new people, lands and cultures himself and sometimes by recounting of what he heard from others, Herodotus exemplified the sprite of both the historian and the explorer. The Histories are thus not only a documentation of historical events like wars and battles but also of new places and in this way, he stands out as one of the earliest explorers of the world.
Finally, Herodotus and his works give people of his times as awareness of their place in the world. By recounting the main historical events of the times as by describing the far-off places, he is able to help his fellow-men, and perhaps even people of future times, appreciate the diversity and richness of the world that they inhabit and seek to take the search further.