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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? • 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
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?
…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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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