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The Histories of Herodotus Complete - PDF ebooks

The Histories of Herodotus, Translated by A. D. Godley

The Histories of Herodotus
The Histories of Herodotus



Excerpt from  first book's introduction:


It is impossible to give certain and undisputed dates for the lifetime of Herodotus. But if we are to believe Aulus Gellius, he was born in 484 B.C.; and the internal evidence of his History proves that he was alive during some part of the Peloponnesian War, as he alludes to incidents that occurred in its earlier years. He may therefore be safely said to have been a contemporary of the two great wars which respectively founded and ended the brief and brilliant pre-eminence of Athens in Hellas. He belongs in the fullest sense to the "great" period of Greek history.

 Herodotus was (it is agreed on all hands) a native of Halicarnassus in Caria; and if his birth fell in 484, he was born a subject of the Great King. His early life was spent, apparently, in his native town, or possibly in the island of Samos, of which he shows an intimate knowledge. Tradition asserts that after a visit to Samos he " returned to Halicarnassus and expelled the tyrant " (Lygdamis); " but when later he saw himself disliked by his countrymen, he went as a volunteer to Thurium, when it was being colonized by the Athenians. There he died and lies buried in the marketplace."  This is supported by good evidence, and there seems to be no reason for doubting it. 

It is also stated that he visited Athens and there recited some part of his history; this may have happened, as alleged, about the year 445. It is evident from his constant allusions to Athens that he knew it well, and must have lived there. So much may be reasonably taken as certain. Beyond it we know very little; there is a large field for conjecture, and scholars have not hesitated to expatiate in it. If Herodotus was banished from Halicarnassus for political reasons, it is probable that he was a man of some standing in his birthplace. 

The unquestioned fact that he traveled far makes it likely that he was well-to-do. But his history, full as it is to the brim of evidence of travel, is never (except in an occasional phrase, " I have myself seen," and the like) autobiographical; and we know nothing, from any actual statement of the historian's own, of the date of his various visits to the countries which he describes. Probably they were spread over a considerable part of his life. 

All that can be said is that he must have visited Egypt after 460 B.C., and may have been before that date in Scythia. Nothing else can be asserted; we only know that at some time or other Herodotus traveled not only in Greece and the Aegean, of which he obviously has personal knowledge but also in a large part of what we call 1 Suidas the Near East. He saw with his own eyes much of Asia Minor; Egypt, as far south as Assuan; Cyrene and the country round it; Syria, and eastern lands perhaps as far as Mesopotamia; and the northern coast of the Black Sea.

We only know that Herodotus' wanderings and the nine books of his narrative are mutually interwoven. His professed object is, as he states it in the first sentence of his first book, to write the history of the Graeco- Persian war. But in order to do this, he must first describe the rise of the Persian empire, to which the chapters on Lydia and the story of Croesus are introductory. 

When he comes in due time to relate the Persian invasion of Egypt, this is the cue for a description and history of the Nile valley, occupying the whole of the second book; and the story of Darius' subsequent expedition against Scythia leads naturally to a long digression on the geography and customs of that country. 

The narrative in the later books, dealing with the actual Persian invasion of Greece, is naturally less broken; but till then at least it is interrupted by constant episodes and digressions, here a chapter, there a whole book; it is the historian's practice, as he himself says, to introduce additions, whenever anything even remotely connected with the matter in hand occurs to him as likely to interest the reader. 

Publication date:  1921 to 1925.
Translated by A. D. Godley

      
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Download The Histories of Herodotus  Volume 5


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