He was born at Halicarnassus, a Dorian settlement in Asia Minor in 480 BC. He studied the epics of Homer and wrote prose like Hecataeus. His curiosity led to travel to Thrace, Scythia, Egypt, and Babylon. He learned the political conditions of several areas. He lived in the court of Periclis for nearly 4 years and settled at Thurii an Athenian colony initially and died in 430 BC.
He was the great writer of Periclean age. He wrote ‘History’, using the documents and declarations of war, settlements of treaties, gathered data from other writers, critical enquiry and close observation and also through extensive travels. The master historian studies varied details, analysed the confused data and wove them into a single text in readable form.
THEME OF “HISTORY”:
Central theme o the book is war between Greeks and Persians. It pictures on geographical account, events and historical data.
- It says Coresus, the King of Lydia; the first Asiatic conquers to attack Greeks.
- Cyrus another Asiatic ruler and king of Persia subdued Lydians.
- King Cambyses, successor of Cyrus occupied Asia Minor and Egypt.
- Darius and Xerxes, later rulers of Persia determined to conquer Greek. These are sequences of ‘History’. He narrates on the reign of Coresus to Xerxes, the developments and conflicts with Persia.
- He explains about the condition of Greek states, Lydia, Egypt, Babylon and Scythia. He also added the description about unknown areas and fabulous tales of remote centuries.
‘History’ was divided into 9 books.
1,2,3,4, & 5 – Speak about the conflict of East and west and development of Greece.
6th – Describes about the Ionian revolt and campaign of Marathon.
7, 8 & 9 – details on different battles of Persians and Greeks and the victory of Greeks.
A glance of the book seems to be not systematically arranged. But in depth reading proves it is well organised in systematic plan. The book falls into 3 sections. Each section was divided into 3 parts.
- Section I deals with the reign of Cyrus and Cambyses and accession of Darius.
- Section II deals with the rule of Xerxes.
- Section III deals with struggle between Persians and Greek.
- The content of the book moves from West Asia to East Europe and East Europe to Greek land.
- The events are based on chronology beginning from rise of Persia, war between Greece and Persia and end with the victory of Greeks.
- He had no idea of gods but says about working of super natural human powers and has given great penalties to the enemies.
- The language used in the book is literally charm, readable and fascinating.
- Hence, ‘Historty’ is a drama of greatness, pride and fall.
IMPORTANCE OF THE WORK:
Herodotus work was original and significant. Dionysius, Arrian, Lucian had admired the greatness of Herodotus. Ancient history of Greek would have fallen into oblivion without his work. ‘History’ was the only source till the monuments and inscription were deciphered.
- His work had the elements of history and geography and based on chronological events and historical information.
- His work represents the transition of history from nature of legend o science.
- Customs, faith, instinct influenced the historical writing in pre classical era.
- The data were collected after a critical analysis.
- He said that the function of history is not to discover what men did but to discover why he did.
- He also emphasized history is humanistic. So long history was mythical and theocratic.
- He also said that the purpose of history is not to tell about super natural beings but to tell about men.
Because of all these services to the cause for historical writing, he is rightly regarded as the “Father of history”.
- Cicero calls Herodotus as Father of History but also as a liar.
- Aristotle considers Herodotus as a story teller.
- An objective history should have unbiased views on Greeks and Persians.
- He did not ignore the greatness of Persia but prejudiced in favour of Athens.
- He never missed glorifying Athens deed to Persians.
- His writing depended on own observation, eye witness accounts and oral traditions rather than official records and written records.
- He gave a confused chronology.
- His narrative has many interruptions.
- Historical figures were left out when geographical features were described.
- Thucydides says he attempted too much and left out important events and gave importance for minor details.
- Critical analysis was lacking. So, no distinction between cause and events.
- He did not understand the military implications and did not omit the incredible stories like the ‘Long Northern Night of Scythia and the Navigation of Africa by Phoenicians’ and the orders of Neco, the King of Egypt.