Why is Herodotus considered the father of history?  

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prior to Herodotus, the writing of history was almost indistinguishable from the composition of myth and fable. As such, it was impossible to get an accurate account of historical events. Herodotus, then, can be seen as the first man to put history on a more systematic, more academically rigorous basis. That's not to say that Herodotus didn't find myths and legends to be important in the writing of history; it's just that he didn't accept them at face value and used them rather as a preliminary to further investigation. They could also be used to add a touch of local color to the historical narrative. This was, after all, a world in which myths were still thought essential to man's understanding of himself and his environment, so Herodotus couldn't dispense with them altogether.

Herodotus is not really in the business of providing analysis as a historian. He's more concerned with setting before the reader the facts as he sees them (mixed together with myths and fables) and allowing us to make up our own minds as to their veracity. All of the various elements of Herodotus's narrative are therefore accorded the same degree of importance. Analysis is left largely to the reader. Sometimes this can be an intellectually invigorating prospect; at other times it is more of a challenge.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Herodotus is known as the father of history because he was the first historian to collect and systematically document events and create an account. He compiled these accounts into his single major work known as The Histories. This document contains records of politics, cultural traditions, and the geographical landscape of areas including Northern Africa, Greece, and Western Asia.

He relied on his personal observations and inquiries from natives to develop the records. This had an impact on the validity of the accounts but the work set a precedent for subsequent historical works, since it was the first in Western literature. He was motivated to capture the history of ancient times and to ensure that events were not forgotten. His motivations are well-captured in the beginning of The Histories where he states, “This is the showing-forth of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that neither what has come to be from man in time might become faded.”

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Herodotus is considered the father of history because he is the first person to write what we would consider a real history.  In addition, he is the person who wrote the first recorded instance of the word "history."

Before Herodotus, stories about things that had happened tended to be mythical (like the Iliad) or tended to be just exaggerated stories meant to flatter kings by saying how wonderful they were.  By contrast, Herodotus tried to write a history that was truer and more objective.  He used his own observations and the testimony of others to write his histories.

Thus, he was the first that we know of to attempt an actual systematic analysis, based on facts, of past events.

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