Herodotus Biography


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

0111205859-Herodotus.jpg Herodotus (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.


Little is known about the early life of Herodotus (heh-RAHD-uh-tuhs), the son of Lyxes and Dryo. His family fled Halicarnassus in the chaotic years after the Greco-Persian Wars (499-448 b.c.e.) and ultimately settled on the island of Samos. He traveled widely as a young man and ascertained a great deal of information regarding various lands, customs, and people. This learning enabled him to make a living as a traveling orator, reciting stories of foreign cultures to the masses.

A visit to Athens inspired him to use his learning to write a history of the Greco-Persian Wars, and in the 440’s b.c.e., he settled in Thurii to research and write this epic. He died before its completion, however, and a concluding chapter was completed by his contemporaries.

The result of this effort is a book in nine sections, written in literary Ionic, and entitled Historiai Herodotou (c. 424 b.c.e.; The History, 1709). Herodotus stated that the purpose of the study was to preserve a memory of the war, to record the achievements of the Greeks and the Persians, and to explain why the conflict began. To do this, he presented all the information available, whether he believed it or not.

The first section is a history of the Persian leader Cyrus the Great. It tells of his accession to power and his conquests and also contains geographic and ethnologic information on Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The second section is a history of Cyrus’s son Cambyses II and his conquests. Sections three through six describe Cyrus’s son Darius the Great and the opening battles of the war. Darius’s advance into Greek territory is described in depth but so too are the efforts of the Greeks to unite and repel the Persian invaders. These sections include descriptions of the famous Athenian victory at Marathon (490 b.c.e.) and of Darius’s defeat. Sections seven through nine tell the story of Darius’s son Xerxes I. His efforts to raise an army and invade Greece, the battles at Thermopylae and Salamis, and the Greek victory are described in these sections and complete the study.


Herodotus is usually dubbed “the father of history” and is considered the first person to use ethnology, geography, and intensive research...

(The entire section is 940 words.)