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Herodotus. The First Historian. Hero-who?. 484-425 BCE Halicarnassus (SW Turkey) Ethnic Greek at Asia Minor Exiled by Lygdamis Refused Persian corruption Influenced by Greco-Persian Wars Traveled Widely (research). Herodotus versus the Gods. How do devastating wars happen?

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Herodotus l.jpg

Herodotus

The First Historian


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Hero-who?

  • 484-425 BCE

  • Halicarnassus (SW Turkey)

  • Ethnic Greek at Asia Minor

  • Exiled by Lygdamis

    • Refused Persian corruption

  • Influenced by Greco-Persian

    Wars

  • Traveled Widely (research)


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Herodotus versus the Gods

  • How do devastating wars happen?

    • Homer/Sumerians: The meddling of mischievous Gods, as at Troy

    • Egyptians/Persians/Assyrians: Evil and wicked compulsions of our enemies, only defeated by the Divine Power of the King

    • Herodotus: A chain of political events, underlying circumstances and tribal differences


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Night

  • Sing, goddess, the wrath of Peleus' son Achilles, that brought endless harm upon the Greeks. Many brave men did it send down to the Underworld, and many heroes did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures. In this way, the counsels of Zeus were fulfilled, from the day on which Agamemnon -king of men- and great Achilles first fell out with one another. And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel?


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…and Day

  • Herodotus of Halicarnassus hereby publishes the results of his inquiries, hoping to do two things: to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of the Greek and the non-Greek peoples; and more particularly, to show how the two races came into conflict.


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TheHistories

  • Written after Greco-Persian Wars

  • 9 “Books” (scrolls) divided into 3 “logoi” each

    • Logoi were probably 4 hour lectures

    • Each logos on a particular topic

      • Scythian Customs

      • Egyptian Geography

      • Persian Diplomacy

      • …all directed around expansion of Persian Empire


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Herodotus fails at turnitin.com

  • Still influenced by Homeric tradition:

    • Epic characterization

    • Impartial narrative

    • Circular composition

      • Digressions off the main theme of Persian expansion:

        • Anecdotes

        • Interviews

        • Linguistic deconstruction (etymology)

        • Mythological analysis


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BUT Herodotus was no Homer

  • New methods would prove his place as the first Historian:

    • Wrote in prose, ignoring compromises of style

    • Empirical research method:

      • Direct investigations and interviews

      • Was not inspired by muses or gods, but by critical reason and a yearning to know ‘why’

      • Compiled evidence and then created an impartial account of events, to his best knowledge.

      • Did not accept traditional explanations of events


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Herodotus was a professor

  • Deemphasized the gods in causality and focused on the ambitions of men

  • Avoided creating a national foundation myth and focused on the immediate, knowable past:

    • Interviewed survivors of Marathon

      • Adhered to rigorous standards of fact checking

  • Seriously interested in geography and location

  • Created history as a genre by combining empirical ethnography and topography into narrative


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The Thesis

  • Herodotus may have created the notion of a Thesis

  • Didn’t just report past events, but explained why they occurred by making an argument, supported by evidence


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I KNOW WHO DID IT!

  • So much for what the Persians and Phoenicians say; and I have no intention of passing judgment on its truth or falsity. I prefer to rely on my own knowledge, and to point out who it was in actual fact that first injured the Greeks.


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It was Croesus in the Study with the candlestick!

  • Interpreted the Greco-Persian wars as inevitable due to imperialism

    • Croesus’ warmongery started a chain of action-reaction

    • Observed the Egyptian, Scythian, Libyan, Thracian etc peoples coming under the Persian yoke

      • Argued that Greece was inevitably next

      • Gods do play a role in enticing mortals to be greedy


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Sourcing

  • Herodotus doesn’t claim to know what he knows through revelation

  • Doesn’t claim to have seen certain things he writes about; is intellectually honest

  • Herodotus visited vast tracts of the Mediterranean

  • Made heavy use of interviews

  • Analyzed traditional and family accounts against his own observations

  • Referred to pre-existing Persian and Greek documents

    • Persian names listed by Herodotus match records


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Anthropology + Topography

  • Created Anthropology

  • Described people’s customs and habits without bias

    • Integrated racial and cultural understandings into historical narratives

    • Analyzed fairytales and popular stories on the basis of evidence

  • Attempted to put things into a geopolitical context


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The Father of Lies?

  • Reverse symmetry geographic motif seemingly applied to history writing: Egyptians.

  • Received flak from contemporaries as being far fetched in depictions of different cultures

    • Mostly debunked (New World implications + modern discoveries)

    • Herodotus claims to only be reporting what has been told to him, not claiming to be True