Herodotus (~-485 - ~-421)

Herodotus Herodotus was an Ancient Greek traveler, geographer and historian that lived during the 5th century BC. He recorded the events of the Persian War (between Persians and Greeks) as well as descriptions of various places and people that he met during his travels. He has been known as the Father of History.

He was born in Halicarnassus to a wealthy and educated family; during his upbringing, he learned to respect Homer and the legends of old. His father was Lyxis, his mother Dryo and his brother Theodore. However, the most important of his relatives was his uncle or cousin Panyasis, who was an epic poet and interpreter of miracles. His father’s and his uncles names show that they originated from Caria, while his mother’s and brother’s names are clearly Greek.

When Herodotus was still young, the tyrant of Halicarnassus was Lygdamis, and Herodotus, active in politics, participated in a failed attempt to overthrow him. This resulted in Herodotus’ exile around 468 BC along with his family to Samos, while his uncle was killed. After Lygdamis was overthrown in 455 BC, Herodotus returned to his homeland for a very short time. Since then, and probably during the period 455 – 443 BC, he started traveling and visiting various places of the then known world, including Colchis, Skythia, the mainland of Asia Minor, Pontus, Cyprus, parts of Syria, Babylonia, Egypt (which he named Gift of the Nile), and of course Greece.

He stayed in Athens for many years and formed friendships with many great people, such as Pericles and Sophocles. With Protagoras, they founded the colony of Thuria in Southern Italy around 443 BC. That’s where he stayed for the rest of his life. He died sometime between 421 and 415 BC.

Herodotus visited many places and recorded their customs and way of life. That’s how we have a lot of information on Egyptians, Scythians etc. He probably visited Egypt in 449 BC, after first stopping in Mesopotamia. Moreover, Ellanicus wrote that Herodotus spent some time in the court of King Alexander I of Macedon. Nevertheless, the most inspirational voyage of Herodotus was to Athens, as it was there that he wrote the largest part of his works. Around 440 BC, he left for Magna Graecia.

Herodotus recorded the “World” History of his time. Alexandrian scholars categorized his work in nine books, naming them after the nine Muses. Herodotus’ aim was to record the great clash between Greeks and Persians during the famous Persian Wars, so that these events may never be forgotten along with the great feats of Greeks and Barbarians, as he wrote. In his first four books, he described the increase of the Persian power; in his fifth and sixth books, he described the first battles between Persians and Greeks of mainland Greece, while in the next two, he described the two main campaigns of Persians that were concluded with the Battle of Marathon and the Naval Battle of Salamis respectively. The last book deals with other wars that the Greeks were involved in.

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