Herodotus, The Fifth-Century B.C. Greek Traveler and Historian

(Herodotus extended his historical coverage beyond the Greek world to the lives, ways, and beliefs of the people with whom the Greeks and the Persians came into contact)

One of a board of nine magistrates in Athens.
A non-Greek; although the term was originally not pejorative, or a bad conotation, although over time the Greeks started to think of themselves as culturally superior to the barbarians.
An independent settlement sent out by a mother-Greek city.

Once established, the colony was expected to be self-sufficient.

Colonies were sent out throughout Greek history, but the great age of Greek colonization extended from about 750 to 550 B.C.

A village of Attica.
One of a board of five Spartan magistrates who serve annually and who had the general responsibility for running the business of the Spartan state.
A state slave of the Spartans.
A mortal who is divinized, or made into a god, after death and to whom sacrifices and honors were paid.
A heavily armed warrior.

Hoplite armor was introduced into Greece from the Near East during the seventh century.

A hoplite fought in a line, known as a phalalnx, while holding a large round shield (a hoplon) in his left hand and a spear in his right hand.

Each hoplite's shield protected the fighter on his left side, and it was essential that the soldiers keep their formation in the line

The city that is responsible for sending out a colony.

It usually provided the equipment and the founder, or chief official, for the colony.

An Athenian procedure that exiled a member of the community from Attica for ten years.

The procedure was designed to keep a man from becoming too influential.

A man who was ostracized was still entitled to any profits resulting from his property and that property was not diminished or harmed while he was in exile.

A fifty-oared warship which was replaced by the trireme.
The inhabitants of Laconia who lived in Sparta.

Not like the helots, they had local autonomy, but they followed the Spartan policies in foreign policy and went with the Spartans on their military campaigns.

Since Spartan society was wholly militaristic, the perioeci practiced all the crafts and trades which were needed by the Spartan community.

A warship manned by 170 rowers, who were arranged in three banks, or levels, on each side of the ship.

Each trireme also had a group of marines on board to handle any military needs.

The sole ruler of a state, who was usually differentiated from a "king" because the tyrant didn't go obtain his authority or power by means of a hereditary right.

Tyrants existed throughout Greek history, but some people refer to an "age of tyranny" (mid-seventh to late sixth centuries, B.C.) when most of the Greek city states (Sparta being the special exception) were ruled by tyrants.

The tyrannies, although passed on from a father to his son, rarely lasted longer than two generations.

In Asia Minor, the Persians installed tyrants to rule their Greek subjects, but such rulers were unpopular.

The Modern Word "History" Comes from Greek istoreo

Historia or istoreo originally meant "to inquire or inquiry, investigation", and only later came to be applied specifically to the investigation of the past.

Herodotus lived in a time when categories of knowledge had not been rigidly separated, and his writings range over many fields which included geography, anthropology, ethnology, zoology, and even fables and folklores.

In the preface of his Histories, Herodotus claimed that he wanted to preserve "human achievements" (ta genomena ex angthropon), and he apparently wanted to be sure that the "great and marvelous deeds" (erga megala te kai thomasta) which was done by both Greeks and barbarians (non-Greeks) should have their proper share of glory.

In his search for great and memorable deeds, Herodotus extended his view beyond the Greek world to the lives, ways, and beliefs of the people with whom the Greeks and the Persians came into contact.

—Compiled from information located in
Herodotus, The Histories; Penguin Classics by the Penguin Group;
Introduction; New York; 1996; page XIV.

No one is fool enough to choose war instead of peace because in peace, sons bury their fathers; but in war, fathers bury their sons.


Herodotus wrote about the memory of civilizations that in some cases had been, and in other cases would yet be, obliterated

He wrote about lurid descriptions of cannibalism and brutality in his The History; such as, the Persian tradition of occasionally burying children alive as gifts to the "so-called god of the underworld".

He also wrote about the concept of the end justifying the means when Darius set up the weaker members of his own army to be annihilated by the Scythians as a tactical military diversion.

Herodotus described the Spartan warriors, who subsisted on twice-daily porridge and diluted wine, defeating the Persians, whose general staff ate lavishly on tables of silver and gold.

While Herodotus leads us to a majestic morally based worldview, what sets his History apart from other works, both ancient and modern, is his powerful re-creation of just what human beings were capable of believing, and how deeply they did indeed believe, for the sake of their own salvation.

It is a belief made tangible by the fact that the ancients, living without science and technology, saw and heard differently, more vividly, than we do now.

Herodotus didn't believe all of the things he encountered; as he wrote, and repeated in different words throughout his work, "I must tell what is said, but I am not at all bound to believe it, and this comment of mine holds about my whole History."

—Compiled from excerpts located in
"A Historian for Our Time" by Robert D. Kaplan
in The Atlantic; January-February, 2007; pages 79-84.

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