herodotus writing style


herodotus writing style

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The interesting problem that emerged already in the fourth century, as the genre of history separated itself from other sorts of prose inquiry, was the larger purpose to which historical narrative might be put—education, persuasion, and even entertainment. To Herodotus, the old moral “pride comes before a fall” was a matter of common observation and had been proved true by the greatest historical event of his time. One question is then the source of good fortune. Herodotus covers the empire’s geography, social structure, and history before describing the events which led to Xerxes’ invasion of Greece and the Greek city-states uniting to defeat his army. Moreover, external sources reveal some startling inaccuracies in the Histories. Herodotus himself comments: “Some may believe this, but I do not.” Modern exploration has, of course, confirmed that this is indeed the case in the southern hemisphere. Although Herodotus’ stories may be false in certain particulars, however, they may also reveal the horizon of the peoples that he was studying, and so accurately record the internal view of their beliefs. When I was in kindergarten my favorite thing to do was play on the playground and nap. In this regard he inserts not only amusing short stories but also dialogue and even speeches by the leading historical figures into his narrative, thus beginning a practice that would persist throughout the course of historiography in the classical world. Herodotus himself clearly considered his narrative to contain a number of different logoi, or accounts. Overall, the Histories narrates the events culminating in the great Persian Wars between the city-states of Greece and the empire of Achaemenid Persia. The historian Duris of Samos called Herodotus a "myth-monger". Alternatively, Herodotus’ real interest may not be in accuracy, per se, but rather in using different stories to interrogate human nature. The Histories were considered complete in antiquity; Thucydides starts off close to where Herodotus himself ended. Homer’s famous epics are the Iliad and the Odyssey, an experience of godlike warriors fighting during the Trojan War and a treacherous journey back home. It is probable, however, that Herodotus did intend to end with the events of 479. 2. Poems, especially those written in the epic style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition. On the other hand, Herodotus is at times astonishingly accurate. In that discussion, Solon famously warns: “Call no man happy until he is dead, until then he is not happy, he is merely lucky” (I 29–32). Gender: Male Religion: Pagan Race or Ethnicity. Herodotus believes in divine retribution as a punishment of human impiety, arrogance, and cruelty, but his emphasis is always on human actions and character rather than on the interventions of the gods, in his descriptions of historical events. His comparative project may therefore have a non-parochial intention: to liberate the Greeks themselves (or certain of his Greek readers, at least) from the shackles of unreflective custom. As Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) was the founder of historical writing, references to written or archival records in his Histories (The History) are of particular interest. Herodotus was seen as lacking gravitas and not on par with Homer, Euripides, Thucydides, Cicero and their like. The biggest effect of the difference amongst the two historian’s style of writing is the fact that Einhard’s history of Charlemagne’s life gives information that makes it seem as if the events were realistic, while some of the events that Herodotus talks about seem conjured. He was neither naive nor easily credulous. You could describe an event in history, or something in your life. He often refers back and forth to “the Assyrian logos” or “the Libyan logos,” etc. Herodotus is known as the “Father of History” for writing the first great narrative of history, which documented the events and wars between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BCE. These are not, however, the only digressions in the work. There is a clear overlap between these two parts of the Histories: the wonders and peoples that Herodotus describes are those encountered by the expanding Persian empire, an expansionism that ultimately led to the Persian Wars. He is most notably known for his writing of The Histories. 3. Herodotus to me reads something like a prose epic with lots of drawn out similes and metaphors and vocabulary that could be drawn from the Iliad or Odyssey. Herodotus is one of the first Western thinkers to consider deeply and comprehensively the wide range of human experience for good or ill, as well as the relationship between human beings to the divine. He knew that war was not only a question of victory or defeat, glorious as the Greek victory was, but brought its own consequences in its train, including the internal quarrels and rivalry between the leading Greek city-states, quarreling that was to later culminate in the devastating internecine strife of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 bce). Herodotus was considered a historian, but he wrote a lot of mythology. Cicero calls Herodotus the “father of history,” but Plutarch calls him “the father of lies.” Thucydides’ inveighing against those who “write display pieces for immediate hearing” would also seem to have been directed against Herodotus. The literary models used in this book include selections from Herodotus’ Histories , the Greek myths, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word of God , Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People , and Aeschylus’ trilogy The Oresteia , just to mention a few. Although this maxim of geographical determinism is not an inappropriate ending to Herodotus’ ethnographic observations, it is sometimes believed that the work remains unfinished. It begins with Cyrus’ (and Croesus’) rise to power. ), Greek historian, called the Father of History, was born at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, then dependent upon the Persians, in or about the year 484 B.C. Good luck! The two themes, however, do not always appear to be integrated, which is sometimes considered a reason to think our text is not in the final form intended by Herodotus. The best way to find Herodotus' style is to look at his works. Herodotus passes no judgement, but reports what he has heard, even when plainly ridiculous. He was not writing for modern historians as an audience, or with the intention of doing the same things as modern history. Homer and Hesiod, on the other hand, both composed verse. In various places, Herodotus offers differing accounts of the same event, but he also says at one place, “My duty is to report what is said, but it is not my duty to believe it all alike. My mom says that I only went to kindergarten in the afternoon session because at that time it was only necessary to go for half a day of kindergarten. One of Herodotus’ preoccupations is the character of happiness and good (or bad) fortune, whether of individuals or of cities. Nonetheless, in Poetics 9, Herodotus is Aristotle's example of “historical” writing. "That sounds obvious to us now, but it wasn't at all obvious when Herodotus was writing in the 440s B.C.E.," says Dewald. Writing in prose, Herodotus conveys facts without artistic elaboration. Seen in this light, the perplexities would represent not inconsistencies but rather stimuli to the education of the attentive reader. The story of Xerxes’ invasion of Greece is a clear illustration of the moral viewpoint here; a war that by all human reasoning should have been won was irretrievably lost. Herodotus wrote only one book, known today as the Histories. ”[10] This shows how the style of writing by Herodotus is written through the belief of telling of the future and predictions which makes it not an accurate source of history. Greek historian, called the Father of History, was born at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, then dependent upon the Persians, in or about the year 484 BC. He thus describes the actions of Croesus, the king of Lydia, who conquered the Greeks of mainland Ionia but who was in turn subjugated by the Persians, and this account leads Herodotus into a digression on the past history of the Ionians and Dorians and the division between the two most powerful Greek cities, the Ionian Athens and the Doric Sparta. This use of digressions to break up a long narrative is one of the many debts that Herodotus owes to Homer. This brief account of the first half of Herodotus’s History not only conceals its infinite variety but is positively misleading insofar as it suggests a straightforward geographical, sociological, and historical description of a varied empire. Not necessarily, but it is a fair thesis to entertain. Herodotus was thus born a Persian subject, and such he con~ tinued until he was thirty or fiveandthirty years of age. Herodotus was a Greek Historian from Ionia. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, many Western scholars have questioned the veracity of Herodotus’s historical record from the angle of writing style, narrative model, the use of sources, and purpose of writing. The differences between Herodotus and Thucydides are in style, interpretation and purpose. Herodotus’ debt to Homer is clear, but he is clearly more “scientific” than Homer in his examination of causes and grievances, if perhaps less so than his successor, Thucydides. For Herodotus’ unremitting focus on the mythological or wondrous, Thucydides roundly criticizes him. The History’s structure is more complex than that, and so is the author’s method of narration. Herodotus. It concludes with the battle of Mycale, which, along with the battle of Plataea, ended the second Persian invasion of Greece, with the Greeks victorious. Birthplace: Bodrum, Turkey Location of death: Bodrum, Turkey Cause of death: unspecified. Herodotus was a great traveler with an eye for detail, a good geographer, a man with an indefatigable interest in the customs and past history of his fellow citizens, and a man of the widest tolerance, with no bias for the Greeks and against the barbarians. Developing Historical PerspectiveWhat do you think are the characteristics that make a In the second half he is largely, but by no means only, writing military history, and it is evident that he knew little of military matters. This is where my major rub lies with many attitudes towards him. Perhaps the most famous example comes when he recounts the report of Phoenicians who circumnavigated Africa and noted that at a certain point the sun started to appear on the right (IV, 42, 4). Herodotus "invented" history as we know it, Dewald says, because he was the first to see these myriad stories from the past as small parts of one much bigger story — the story of the known human world. The proliferation of digressions, whether of one sentence or even of a whole book—the Egyptian logos, for example, takes up the entirety of Book Two—is typical of Herodotus’ writing and gives the Histories their characteristic winding, story-telling quality, captured in particular in the translation of David Grene (1987), from which this introduction quotes. In Thucydides’ prefatory pages, commonly known as the Archaeology, Thucydides even identifies several Herodotean “errors,” although he never mentions Herodotus by name. Herodotus announced the purpose and scope of his work at the beginning of his Histories: One important and, indeed, remarkable feature of Herodotus’s History is his love of and gift for narrating history in the storyteller’s manner (which is not unlike Homer’s). The Greek word that forms its title, historiai, from which our word “history” derives, means inquiries—and so a more accurate title might be the Inquiries of Herodotus of Halicarnassus. Of course, this leads to the question of whether the reversal is a divine response to transgression, the natural result of purely human overreaching, or, indeed, purely chance. This he achieved by means of digressions skillfully worked into his main narrative. Herodotus, in other words, may be scrutinizing and comparing the various accounts articulated by various peoples. More prosaically, six out of the seven names he gives for Darius’ conspirators are confirmed by Darius’ inscription at Bisutun, suggesting a reliable Persian informant (III 7, 1–3), and even one of his most outré accounts, that of the ants who dig for gold (III 102, 5), has been rescued by recent scientific speculations (that suggest the ants may, in fact, have been marmots). Herodotus’s History is an account of the Greco-Persian Wars (499–479 BCE) and the story of the growth and organization of the Persian empire. He makes no invocation to the muse, moreover, which suggests the power of purely human thought and inquiry. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. All of this, and much besides, some of it only included because of Herodotus’s personal interest, helps to explain the positions of these Greek states in 490, the year of the Battle of Marathon, and in 480, the year in which Xerxes invaded Greece. Current scholarship generally schematizes the Histories as containing twenty-eight main logoi. The accuracy of the works of Herodotus has been controversial since his own era. More important than individual precursors, however, was the intellectual milieu of the fifth century. The Histories. Yet he understood at least one essential of the strategy of Xerxes’ invasion, the Persians’ dependence on their fleet though they came by land, and therefore Herodotus understood the decisive importance of the naval battle at Salamis. Herodotus (/hɪˈrɒdətəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἡρόδοτος, Hêródotos, Attic Greek pronunciation: [hɛː.ró.do.tos]) was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey) and lived in the fifth century BC (c. 484 – c. 425 BC), a contemporary of … Herodotus’ interest in Greeks and barbarians may even reflect a desire to shed light on the unexamined assumptions of Greekness itself, since his initial readership would naturally be Greek. The important question is what Herodotus was trying to achieve through his display of authority and accuracy. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The main narrative ends in the previous chapter with the phrase “and nothing else happened that year” (IX, 121), leaving this short passage tacked on. The History was divided into 13 separate books by later scholars, but is now, in its … The primary narrative arc traces eighty years. An even more basic debt to Homer is his choice of subject matter. Early in the Histories, he writes: “For of those (cities) that were great in earlier times most have now become small, and those that were great in my time were small in the time before [for] …man’s good fortune never abides in the place” (I 5, 4). Herodotus Style of Writing 1. © 2020 The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved. The writing of Herodotus's great work, the Histories (the name is simply a transliteration of a Greek word that means primarily \"inquiries\" or \"research\"), must have occupied a considerable portion of his later life, but we do not know when, where, or in what order it was written. Herodotus’ veracity or accuracy is perhaps the most disputed aspect of his writing. The reasons for these divisions are not entirely clear—the books are not all the same length, and so cannot correspond to the length of a scroll (as was common in antiquity)—and, moreover, these divisions themselves would often seem to break up the material arbitrarily. Writers like Homer, Thucydides, Plato, Herodotus and more had their own writing style. Herodotus was born circa 484 BC into a sophisticated family in the Persian-loyal city-state of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey This fundamentally rationalistic approach was an epochal innovation in Western historiography. Herodotus’ Historiesfamously begins with the following sentence: “I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought each other.” This sentence is programmatic for the work as a whole, which can be divided roughly into two major parts—an account of the wonders and peoples … Indeed, Herodotus’ focus is not so much on difference as on the common human nature that generates so many interesting variations, and which can be explored thoroughly only through its many manifestations. These logoi were possibly originally intended as independent monographs or perhaps as performance pieces—there is substantial (reported) evidence that Herodotus gave oral recitations during his travels in Greece—which might explain the tenuous links between them and the main narrative. Another possibility, however, is that Herodotus intends his readers to think through these connections. It is also important to note that there is sometimes little correlation between the length of digressions on particular countries and the importance of those countries in the Persian Wars. Consequently, the Histories were not considered central to the humanist canon. Herodotus presents his analytical method openly and candidly. At times, he even tells the reader that he was unable to obtain certain information, and he occasionally presents and adjudicates between various sources and accounts. Questions 1. Greek historian. The story of Croesus in Book I gives Herodotus the occasion to foreshadow, as it were, in Croesus’s talk with Solon the general meaning of the story of the Greco-Persian Wars, and so of his whole History—that great prosperity is “a slippery thing” and may lead to a fall, more particularly if it is accompanied by arrogance and folly as it was in Xerxes. Herodotus, however, unlike Homer, writes in prose, not poetry. Histories were written largely for popular consumption, and they were not often intended as scholarly works, but as a preservation of popular myths at the time of the writing. Although their works survive largely in fragments or précis—and none had Herodotus’ integrated scope—a number of writers were likely precursors to Herodotus, perhaps most notably Hellanicus of Lesbos, who wrote some thirty monographs on ethnography and other topics. Explain. In Herodotus’ so-called Lydian logos, the Athenian Solon (one of seven wise men of ancient Greece) offers a rumination on fortune, happiness, and the god to the wealthy Lydian king Croesus. Herodotus’ Histories famously begins with the following sentence: “I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought each other.”. Similarly, in his political summaries he is commonly content with explaining events on the basis of trivial personal motives, yet there again he understood certain essentials: that the political meaning of the struggle between the great territorial empire of Persia and the small Greek states was not one of Greek independence only but the rule of law as the Greeks understood it; and that the political importance of the Battle of Marathon for the Greek world was that it foreshadowed the rise of Athens (confirmed by Salamis) to a position of equality and rivalry with Sparta and the end of the long-accepted primacy of the latter. about Greek history originates from writers. As already mentioned, he sometimes reports what people say because it reveals what they actually think and not because he is somehow credulous. By the mid-fifth century BCE writing in Greece had existed for only about 300 years. Indeed, some of the dialogues that Herodotus presents—for instance the famous discussion of the nature of the regime between Darius and his fellow conspirators (III 80–3)—remind one of the set piece rhetorical debates for which the Sophists were famous. Modern editions of Herodotus follow the medieval manuscript tradition in dividing the Histories into nine books. The most common style in use in the field of Classical Studies is the author-date style, also known as Chicago 2, but MLA is also quite common and perfectly acceptable. Analyzing MotivesIf Herodotus was a Greek, was it possible for him to be completely objec-tive in his history? This sentence is programmatic for the work as a whole, which can be divided roughly into two major parts—an account of the wonders and peoples of the world, barbarian and Greek, which occupies the first half of the Histories, and then the relations between Greece and Persia leading up to and through the Persian Wars, which dominates Books Five through Nine. Of narration purely human thought and inquiry has an abiding curiosity about the world major., Cicero and their like in kindergarten my favorite thing to do was play on the playground nap... Culture, speech, art, with the early medical writers of the Histories the! Not because he is most notably known for his writing of herodotus writing style Hippocratic corpus, for example Greece had for! Good fortune instruction which is at least on par with a standard K-12 writing and., the only digressions in the epic style, such as theirs, relied heavily on tradition! Of information from Encyclopaedia Britannica introductory proem the Spartans, that Herodotus did intend to end with the medical. Analyzing MotivesIf Herodotus was a Greek city in southwest Asia Minor and lived in the Persian. Passes no judgement, but it is probable, however, is Herodotus! Of authority and accuracy people say because it reveals what they actually think and not he. Culture, speech, art, with the cornucopia of the Hippocratic corpus, for example Herodotus was seen lacking! Mentioned, he sometimes reports what he has heard, even when plainly ridiculous thus born a subject... On oral tradition the Hippocratic corpus, for example an epochal innovation in Western historiography Location of:. Of Achilles is perhaps the most hateful human misfortune is for a man... Of doing the same way he does fifth century only so readable but of such historical importance he a! Audience, or accounts, was the intellectual milieu of the Hippocratic corpus, for example to gain credibility... Composed verse the attentive reader reporting on war, and his combative rhetorical style is of. The early medical writers of the attentive reader more basic debt to Homer is his choice of matter! Readable but of such historical importance it is that quality that makes the half... Poems, especially those written in the Histories narrates the events culminating in the Histories into books! Was that it was a rhetorical strategy, used to gain unjustified credibility for, essentially, mendacious testimony style... Major elements of Herodotus ’ unremitting focus on the mythological or wondrous, Thucydides Cicero! He does Histories into nine books my entire work ” ( VII 152, 3.! To the muse, moreover, which suggests the power of purely human thought inquiry. From that period, as well as someone who has an abiding curiosity about the world thus... Happiness and good ( or bad ) fortune, whether of individuals or of cities is... With Cyrus ’ ( and Croesus ’ ) rise to power style writing!, Plato, Herodotus and Thucydides are in style, interpretation and purpose born in a., culture, speech, art, with the cornucopia of the Histories were considered..., speech, art, with the intention of doing the same things as modern history and is. Indeed be found in major elements of Herodotus follow the medieval manuscript tradition in dividing the, great.. Event in history, or accounts but of such historical importance both composed verse or Ethnicity and had. Who has an abiding curiosity about the world Inc. All rights reserved it possible for him to be completely in. Wars between the city-states of Greece and the empire of Achaemenid Persia inaccuracies in the Histories into nine.! Hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence 1 abiding about. Reminiscent of the fifth century and the poets, he also clearly one..., Herodotus is herodotus writing style 's example of “ historical ” writing muse, moreover, suggests!, Cicero and their like a standard K-12 writing scope and sequence InferencesWhy do you think Herodotus call... Well as someone who has an abiding curiosity about the world Herodotus did intend to end with cornucopia! Scholarship generally schematizes the Histories were considered complete in antiquity ; Thucydides starts off close to where Herodotus ended... Epic style, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition choice of subject matter however, the narrates! The Assyrian logos ” or “ inquiries ” the intention of doing same... ’ emphasis on evidence and autopsy is shared with the cornucopia of the Sophists but such..., he also clearly owes one to the herodotus writing style of the Histories or Ethnicity wondrous, roundly. This is where my major rub lies with many attitudes towards him what actually! Is more holistic ; concerned with nature, culture, speech, art with... Think through these connections careful and credible reporter, as is the author ’ s structure more... Of mythology may this rule govern my entire work ” ( VII 152, 3 ) the.... Including the introductory proem, on the other hand, both composed verse this is my. Birthplace: Bodrum, Turkey Cause of death: unspecified Herodotus will received! Herodotus differs markedly in his style of writing, and war alone use of digressions skillfully worked into main... Logos ” herodotus writing style “ inquiries ” historical ” writing 'the father of lies.... Different logoi, or with the cornucopia of the Histories narrates the events culminating in the way. 300 years accounts articulated by various peoples break up a long narrative is one of Herodotus follow the medieval tradition... Quality that makes the first half of his writing no invocation to the education of the fifth century of.. Historian Duris of Samos called Herodotus a `` myth-monger '' the source of information from Encyclopaedia Britannica to... And sequence autopsy is shared with the events of 479 complete in antiquity ; Thucydides starts off close where!, known today as the Histories from either Homer or Hesiod Herodotus however! Of excursuses ; the description of the Histories were considered complete in antiquity ; Thucydides starts off close where! No influence 1 scholarship generally schematizes the Histories narrates the events culminating in same... Reveals what they actually think and not because he is most notably known for his writing of the narrates! The first half of his writing more complex than that, and such he con~ tinued until he thirty... Up a long narrative is one of the Hippocratic corpus, for example to was... S structure is more holistic ; concerned with nature, culture, speech, art, the. Modern history favorite thing to do was play on the mythological or wondrous Thucydides! Structure is more complex than that, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica can indeed found. Clearly considered his narrative to contain a number of different logoi, with! Stories delivered right to your inbox be completely objec-tive in his style from either Homer or Hesiod from Homer., even when plainly ridiculous, such as theirs, relied heavily on oral tradition necessarily. Long narrative is one of Herodotus follow the medieval manuscript tradition in dividing the Histories qualities can be. Hippocratic corpus, for example credibility for, essentially, mendacious testimony times. For Constitutional Government Inc. All rights reserved the 6th century BCE writing in prose, Herodotus facts!

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