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POxy v0017 n2099 a 01 hires.jpg
Fragment from Histories, Book VIII on 2nd-century Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2099
Author Herodotus
Country Greece
Language Ancient Greek
Genre History
Publisher Various
Publication date
c. 440 BC

The Histories (Greek: Ἱστορίαι; Ancient Greek: [his.to.rí.ai̯]; also known as The History[1]) of Herodotus is now considered as the founding work of history in Western literature.[2] Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time. It is not an impartial record but it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established without precedent the genre and study of history in the Western world, although historical records and chronicles existed beforehand.

It stands as one of the first accounts of the rise of the Persian Empire, the events of, and causes for, the Greco-Persian Wars between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. Herodotus portrays the conflict as one between the forces of slavery (the Persians) on the one hand, and freedom (the Athenians and the confederacy of Greek city-states which united against the invaders) on the other.

The Histories was at some point divided into the nine books of modern editions, conventionally named after the Muses.

Motivation for writing[edit]

Herodotus seems to have traveled extensively around the ancient world, conducting interviews and collecting stories for his book. At the beginning of The Histories, Herodotus sets out his reasons for writing it:


Candaules, King of Lydia, shews his wife by stealth to Gyges…, by William Etty (1820)

Herodotus Book I (Clio)[edit]

Book II (Euterpe)[edit]

Book III (Thalia)[edit]

Cambyses II of Persia capturing pharaoh Psammetichus III (Persian seal, 6th century BC)
Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the Kul'Oba kurgan burial near Kerch (Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg)

Book IV (Melpomene)[edit]

Statue of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens

Book V (Terpsichore)[edit]

Book VI (Erato)[edit]

A Greek trireme
  • The order of Darius that the Greeks provide him earth and water, in which most consent, including Aegina
  • The Athenian request for assistance of Cleomenes of Sparta in dealing with the traitors
  • The history behind Sparta having two kings and their powers
  • The dethronement of Demaratus, the other king of Sparta, due to his supposed false lineage
  • The arrest of the traitors in Aegina by Cleomenes and the new king Leotychides
  • The suicide of Cleomenes in a fit of madness, possibly caused by his war with Argos, drinking unmixed wine, or his involvement in dethroning Demaratus
  • The battle between Aegina and Athens
  • The taking of Eretria by the Persians after the Eretrians sent away Athenian help
  • Pheidippides's encounter with the god Pan on a journey to Sparta to request aid
  • The assistance of the Plataeans, and the history behind their alliance with Athens
  • The Athenian win at the Battle of Marathon, led by Miltiades and other strategoi
  • The Spartans late arrival to assist Athens
  • The history of the Alcmaeonidae and how they came about their wealth and status
  • The death of Miltiades after a failed attack on Paros and the successful taking of Lemnos
The plain of Marathon today

Book VII (Polymnia)[edit]

  • The amassing of an army by Darius after learning about the defeat at Marathon
  • The quarrel between which son should succeed Darius in which Xerxes I of Persia is chosen
  • The death of Darius in 486 BC
  • The defeat of the Egyptian rebels by Xerxes
  • The advice given to Xerxes on invading Greece: Mardonius for invasion, Artabanus against (9-10)
  • The dreams of Xerxes in which a phantom frightens him and Artabanus into choosing invasion
  • The preparations for war, including a canal and Xerxes' Pontoon Bridges across the Hellespont
  • The offer by Pythius to give Xerxes all his money, in which Xerxes rewards him
  • The request by Pythius to allow one son to stay at home, Xerxes's anger, and the march out between the butchered halves of Pythius's son
  • The destruction and rebuilding of the bridges built by the Egyptians and Phoenicians at Abydos
  • The siding with Persia of many Greek states, including Thessaly, Thebes, Melia, and Argos
  • The refusal of aid after negotiations by Gelo of Syracuse, and the refusal from Crete
  • The destruction of 400 Persian ships due to a storm
  • The small Greek force (appox. 6000) led by Leonidas I, sent to Thermopylae to delay the Persian army (~5,283,220 (Herodotus) )
  • The Battle of Thermopylae in which the Greeks hold the pass for 3 days
  • The secret pass divulged by Ephialtes of Trachis in which Hydarnes uses to lead forces around the mountains to encircle the Greeks
  • The retreat of all but the Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans (forced to stay by the Spartans).
  • The Greek defeat and order by Xerxes to remove Leonidas's head and attach his torso to a cross

Book VIII (Urania)[edit]

  • Greek fleet is led by Eurybiades, a Spartan
  • The destruction by storm of two hundred ships sent to block the Greeks from escaping
  • The retreat of the Greek fleet after word of a defeat at Thermopylae
  • The supernatural rescue of Delphi from a Persian attack
  • The evacuation of Athens assisted by the fleet
  • The reinforcement of the Greek fleet at Salamis Island, bringing the total ships to 378
  • The destruction of Athens by the Persian land force after difficulties with those who remained
  • The Battle of Salamis, the Greeks have the advantage due to better organization, and less loss due to ability to swim
  • The description of the Angarum, the Persian riding post
  • The rise in favor of Artemisia, the Persian woman commander, and her council to Xerxes in favor returning to Persia
  • The Serpent Column dedicated by the victorious Greeks in Delphi, later transferred to Constantinople
    The vengeance of Hermotimus, Xerxes' chief eunuch, against Panionius
  • The attack on Andros by Themistocles, the Athenian fleet commander and most valiant Greek at Salamis
  • The escape of Xerxes and leaving behind of 300,000 picked troops under Mardonius in Thessaly
  • The ancestry of Alexander I of Macedon, including Perdiccas
  • The refusal of an attempt by Alexander to seek a Persian alliance with Athens

Book IX (Calliope)[edit]

  • The second taking of an evacuated Athens
  • The evacuation to Thebes by Mardonius after the sending of Lacedaemonian troops
  • The slaying of Masistius, leader of the Persian cavalry, by the Athenians
  • The warning from Alexander to the Greeks of an impending attack
  • The death of Mardonius by Aeimnestus
  • The Persian retreat to Thebes where they are afterwards slaughtered (Battle of Plataea)
  • The description and dividing of the spoils
  • The speedy escape of Artabazus into Asia.
  • The Persian defeat in Ionia by the Greek fleet (Battle of Mycale), and the Ionian revolt
  • The mutilation of the wife of Masistes ordered by Amestris, wife of Xerxes
  • The death of Masistes after his intent to rebel
  • The Athenian blockade of Sestos and the capture of Artayctes

Translations of the Histories[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herodotus (1987). The History, translated by David Grene. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-32770-1.
  2. ^ Arnold, John H. (2000). History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 17. ISBN 0-19-285352-X.
  3. ^ Fehling, Detlev (1989). "Some demonstrably false source citations". Herodotus and His 'Sources' . Francis Cairns, Ltd. 50–57. ISBN 0-905205-70-7.
    Lindsay, Jack (1974). "Helen in the Fifth Century". Helen of Troy Rowman and Littlefield. 133–134. ISBN 0-87471-581-4
  4. ^ Kim, Lawrence (2010). "Homer, poet and historian". Homer Between History and Fiction in Imperial Greek Literature. Cambridge University Press. 30-35 ISBN 978-0-521-19449-5.
    Allan, Williams (2008). "Introduction". Helen. Cambridge University Press. 22-24 ISBN 0-521-83690-5.
    Lindsay, Jack (1974). "Helen in the Fifth Century". Helen of Troy. Rowman and Littlefield. 135-138. ISBN 0-87471-581-4

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histories_(Herodotus) — Please support Wikipedia.
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18 news items

Huffington Post
Fri, 27 Feb 2015 07:35:56 -0800

In Histories, Herodotus ensured that we would understand that Westerners were superior. The civilizations go by many names, but the struggle to prevail has continued into the 21st century. East and West are at war. Supremacy has been fought in the East ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Fri, 16 May 2014 14:18:47 -0700

The struggle between East and West—between Asia and Europe—2,500 years ago was the grand theme chosen by Herodotus for his "Histories." The climax of his story was the astonishing repulse of the Persian king Xerxes' invasion of Greece in 480-479 ...


Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:07:30 -0800

As Tom Holland's translation shows, he deserves better. Books 0 Comments Justin Marozzi 14 December 2013. A woman hatches a baby from an egg she has been incubating, as reported by Herodotus. The Histories Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland.

The Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard
Thu, 09 Oct 2014 20:35:30 -0700

Herodotus, the first Greek and thereby the first Western historian, had bad press long before there was anything resembling a press. Aristotle referred to him as a “story-teller,” which was no honorific. What he meant was that Herodotus made things up ...
New Statesman
Thu, 07 Nov 2013 09:04:55 -0800

In Tom Holland's new translation of The Histories, Herodotus, the “father of history” (in Cicero's phrase), born circa 480BC, describes a Babylonian marriage practice: “The [custom] that I myself rate the cleverest is one that they share with the Eneti ...
New Yorker
Sun, 20 Apr 2008 21:01:23 -0700

In the figure of the Persian king Xerxes, Herodotus achieved a magisterial portrait of an unstable despot, an archetype that has plagued the sleep of liberal democracies ever since. Credit ADRIEN GUIGNET, “XERXES AT THE HELLESPONT” (1845)/AKG- ...
Morocco World News
Sat, 13 Dec 2014 09:42:21 -0800

In his Histories, Herodotus also reports that he observed in the surrounding area of the pyramids seashells and signs of salt water calcification back then (Herodotus, ca. 450 B.C., Book II:12). All of that evidence seems to suggest that maybe the Giza ...


Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:43:39 -0700

Also, going back to The Histories—Herodotus—a new translation by Tom Holland. I first began reading Herodotus during sailing trips along the Turkish coast, and with all that's going on in that part of the world now, it is as instructive as ever. And ...

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