(Herodotus or Herodotus; (Halicarnassus, c. 484 BC - Turios?, c. 426 B.c.) Greek historian, the first of the Western world. In nine books that make up his work, titled histories, Herodotus he narrated in detail the course of wars medical (Greece against the Almighty Persian Empire), which ended with the victory of the Greeks over Darío the great and his son Xerxes. Although a sense of moral and religious guides his story, which is interspersed with frequent descriptive and ethnographic excursos on barbarian peoples, already in ancient times knew how to appreciate the novelty and the value of his work, and awarded the title of father of history Herodotus.
Bust of Herodotus
Bust of Herodotus
Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus (now Bodrum, small Turkish town of Asia minor) at uncertain date, probably towards the year 484 BC. The Dorian colony of Halicarnassus was by then under Persian rule and was ruled by the tyrant Lygdamis; Herodotus parents were, therefore, subjects of the Persian Empire, but in their veins ran Greek blood, and indeed it is likely that the family belongs to the aristocracy of Halicarnassus.
When he was still a child, and on the occasion of a revolt against Lygdamis in which died Paniasis, uncle, or cousin of the future historian, Herodotus family had to abandon their homeland and go to Samos. There might Herodotus have a closer contact with the world of Ionian culture. According to tradition, it was in Samos where he learned the Ionian dialect where he wrote his work; but modern researchers have proven that this dialect was also commonly employed in Halicarnassus.
Almost certain is that, shortly before 454 BC, Herodotus returned to Halicarnassus to participate in the overthrow of Lygdamis (454 BC), son of Artemisia, representative of caria tyranny that dominated the political life of the colony at that time. The following date known with certainty from the biography of Herodotus is the Foundation, in 444-443 BC the colony of Thurii, next to the ruins of Sybaris. It is not known if Herodotus was part of the first founding expedition (which he directed Pericles), but that obtained the citizenship of the colony.
Some of his biographers report that, among those ten years between the fall of Lygdamis and arrival at Thurii (444-454), Herodotus made trips to several Greek cities, in which offered readings of his works; It is even said that he received ten talents for a reading in Athens, which now seems quite unlikely, although it expresses the good reception that Herodotus had in the city.
Their stay at the Athens of Pericles allowed him to contemplate the great political and cultural moment living city: Athens, Herodotus could meet Protagoras, flag bearer of the revolution of the sophistry, and Sophocles, the great tragic poet who would both influence his historical work. Also in the time prior to the founding of Turios Herodoto made those trips that speaks to us in his work: we know that he was in Egypt for four months and, later, he went to Mesopotamia and Phoenicia. Another of his travels resulted in the country of the Scythians.
All these trips were inspired by a desire to increase their knowledge and satiate your craving for knowledge, constant should of thought of Herodotus. This appears through his work as a man of curious, observant and always ready to listen, qualities which combined with a large encyclopaedic and erudite formation. Their pilgrimage would continue after set to Thurii, where he lived at least a few years, although very little is known about this last stage of his life.
Parody that made the work of Herodotus Aristophanes suggests that it was already known around 425 BC Recent events mentioned in the histories of Herodotus about Greece refer to 430 B.c.; It is thought that the historian died in Thurii between 421 BC and 426
The histories of Herodotus
The work by which Herodotus of Halicarnassus was the nickname of father of history not received neither the title nor the division; the current, in nine books, each of which appears under the heading of a muse, comes from the Alexandrian scholars. The first five books describe aspects of the wars Medical Fund; the last four contain the history of the war, culminating with the story of the invasion of Greece by the Persian king Xerxes, and the great Greek victories of Salamis and Plataea and Mycale.
The medical wars and their preliminary are, therefore, the theme of this first great narrative history of antiquity. But if he renounces the simplification, it should be noted that the Chronicle of Herodotus, multiple and complex, is difficult to summarize: its purpose and its narratives are various and very different from each other, by which, at first, hard to see the unifying principle of diverse materials.
To meet them, Herodotus resorted to his many travels throughout the known world; they extracted their sources of information and their data: sometimes, Herodotus collect what they have seen with their own eyes; others, that have counted you; many others, the result of its inquiries and investigations after contrasting the oral traditions met with the archaeological remains and monuments or resorting to the priests and scholars of the places visited. Thus, for example, his research on the myth of Hercules took him up to Phoenician. Attention see how Herodotus is setting these as different elements together and how, on occasions, collect them even when, in his opinion, are not reliable: "my duty is to report everything that is said, but I am not obliged to believe it all equally" (lib. 7, 152).
Since the beginning of the work, the own Herodotus announces that its role is to narrate the events and achievements of the men and, more specifically, the war between Greeks and barbarians. The core of the story is certainly the story of wars medical, those which faced to the East with the West, but this gives rise to the Herodotus to insert numerous digressions throughout his work. These allowed audiences approaching those strange and far away, countries that were linked to a greater or lesser extent with the Persians. That way, his narration is not unitary, but that breaks following an associative principle, according to which different countries and regions appear in the moment in which relate in some way with the Persians.
However, while these digressions are especially frequent in the early books of the work, is observed to decrease in the central part of it, that which is narrated the confrontation between Greece and Persia. Then begins a story much more concise and objective, with analysis and much closer investigation of the data. Is discovered in this way in the work of Herodotus a multitude of styles in direct dependence with their sources: for his description of exotic countries, Herodotus had to resort to his travels and second-hand information, oral either or written (like the stories of other logographers); on the other hand, narrating the war, Center of his story, Herodotus had documents more accessible and reliable on these events. Herodotus thus combines the skills of a great storyteller and a historian (i.e. research) in its attempt to elucidate the truth through the tangle of their multiple sources.
This heterogeneity of materials has allowed venture hypotheses about the genesis of the work. Thus, the internal and external characteristics of studies dedicated to the various peoples that were successively by the Persians would explain the premise that should originally be coordinated in a historical and ethnographic description of the Persian Empire, and did not become part of the work until, in the development of the narrative, Herodotus was dragged by the exciting attractions that for him and for his readers had the military conflict with Greece.
After compounds, these passages were incorporated into the narrative program of the stories with various attachments: some were located in the place completely adequate, according to the Chronicle of the expansion of Persian (as the reference to the Athenians in Egypt, which held much interest for it); others, such as which refers to the Lydians were shifted site according to the requirements of the new theme; others, finally (and thus know what happened with one of the Assyrians) were abolished. It is fairly safe, therefore, that a number of passages, originally conceived as logoi or accounts intended for reading before an audience, and independent underwent after historiographic work plan.
Such an explanation of the genesis of the work of Herodotus gives idea of its main originality, since it allows us to understand how the author was going to theological speculation and curiosity of the compilers of news geographic and ethnographic research of the human facts ascertainable through a tradition worthy of faith. Before it, writers in prose, which were designated logographs, had merely concerned research and systematize, following the example of epic poetry, the mythical stories of the divine and human origins in genealogy and Chronicles, and collecting news about the successive geographical discoveries.
Naturally, Herodotus is still very close to the logographers, both by its style easy and fluent narrator as per their language (writes still in ionic dialect), and also by their mentality. If, in fact, it gives little importance to mythology, gives it very large, on the other hand, news geographical and ethnographic, taking advantage of their extensive travels. Above all, their interests in the field of geography and ethnography are oriented towards everything was strange and wonderful, and their descriptions, in substance, are an index of the collected curiosities, directly or by hearsay, on peoples and countries. And as it attracts detail concrete and picturesque, without his too about the importance of the facts concerned or its credibility, his work sometimes has the charm of a fable.
Despite the archaic features of their history, their method was already strongly critical: knew relativize the news that arrived on Egypt or distinguish the events that he witnessed (autopsy) of those who were counted him or who had known by oral tradition. In fact, the term history derives from a Greek word, istor, which indicated to which tells something that has seen personally, that of what they witnessed. Nonetheless, it is exempt from subjectivity (traces, even of the sophist school have been found), but only rarely are allowed to give their opinion, and prefers to let the reader judge for himself.
Herodotus also makes mistakes, and severe, for mere precipitation or ignorance; but the attempts repeatedly made to show a bad faith have failed. Even in human history it seeks it wonderful: great political, social and economic phenomena are for the scant interest. The events in a realm are often diluted in anecdotal biography of the King or the main characters; the first causes of major events, which, undoubtedly, not ignored Herodotus, are relegated after secondary or personal causes. Also in the most important facts, such as the battle of Salamis and Platea, overflowing detail about individual adventures, of heroism, tips and memorable phrases, that almost make forget the overview.
The religious and ethical perspective
The philosophy of the history of Herodotus is rooted in the moral and religious ideas of the old Ionian world. The Persian imperialist expansion ends with a catastrophe because so wish the gods, envious of excessive human prosperity; no force in the world, any event, could save the men, who had incurred the envy of the gods; such is their morale, similar to the one of the tragedies of Aeschylus.
Herodotus is an archaic religious spirit, and imposes on its history scheme hybris or hubris (Xerxes defying the constraints of nature to build a bridge of boats between East and West, or daring to whip the sea) that is deserving of punishment, a nemesis or redistribution by the gods, who restored an equitable situation. The gods play even an important role in the narrative of Herodotus, insofar as they are envious of the human, extremely fragile and unstable fortune, as evidenced by the story of Croesus and Solon in book I.
Politically stresses its rejection of the Greek tyrannies and unambiguous taking of freedom party, which made it possible that freely dear self-discipline that made possible the victory of the Greeks against the oriental despotism. As for possible partiality, there is that Herodotus expresses frequently a warm sympathy for the Greeks in general and the Athenians in particular, probably arising during the period in which resided in the Athens of Pericles, and exalts the ethical superiority of Greek civic freedoms and the heroism that its cultivation allowed its citizens; but as frequently as you admire the culture of the peoples that he brings together under the label of barbarians, and thus enhances the Persian power, the great figures of their kings or the admirable facts of his soldiers.
The Chronicle of Herodotus is closed precisely with a compliment, indeed beautiful, the Persians (who preferred to be poor, to dominate the others, who live in comfort, but serving others), praise that has similarity with the tributado the heroes of marathon ("in Greece, poverty was always congenital, but with the value, with the good sense, with the force of law") (", the Greeks fought not only poverty but also submission to the foreigner"), detail that seems just right to finish a Greeks and Persians history written by a Greek. But everything was great attracted the sympathy of Herodotus, who with his apparently naive art know communicating it to the reader.
Despite the enormous success achieved by Herodotus, soon began the criticism by later historians, who accused him of being lax with data. One of its early critics was Thucydides, who refers to his method as something ephemeral and valid only for an instant, i.e., suitable for reading and enjoyment only.
Indeed, Herodotus became an essential source for all historians of the ancient world, which were gradually rectifying some of its reports on countries distant and exotic. With Hellenism, the work of Herodotus acquired greater relevance thanks to the somewhat novel character of some accounts (something very much to the taste of the time); a celebrated scholar Origen, Aristarchus, conducted a review of his works. Thus, the work of Herodotus was always, as he has been said, a point of reference, either as a conscious model or simply as a counter-model.
Also the Romans surrendered before the figure of Herodotus; It was Cicero who called him "the father of history". Many Roman historians used it as a source, and the quotations taken from storiesabound. During the middle ages, a period in which the Greek language became a real arcane, Herodotus left to read, albeit in an indirect way, thanks to the Latin historians, met some of the anecdotes embedded in their stories. Its star returned to shine thanks to the achievements of humanism: was the first who dared to translate his work into latin, and, already at the beginning of the 16th century (in 1520), Aldo Manuzio the first edition of their Storiespresses, Lorenzo Valla with what the original text of Herodotus went back to the flow of the erudition of the following centuries.