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HERODOTUS
The famous Greek historian, called the Father of History, born about 490-480 B.C., at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. He was of noble family, being the son of Lyxes and Dryo (or Rhoio). Like his uncle, the poet Panyasis (q.v.), he fled in 460 to the island of Samos, having been expelled from his native town by the tyrant Lygdamis. From this spot he seems to have completed his great travels, which he had already begun when at Halicarnassus. These travels were most extensive: he traversed Asia Minor, the interior of Asia nearly as far as Susa, the Graeco-Asiatic islands, Egypt as far as Elephantine, Cyrene, the shores of the Euxine as far as the Caucasus and the mouth of the Danube, as well as Greece and the neighbouring countries. Having returned with his uncle to Halicarnassus, he took part in the expulsion of Lygdamis (about 450), but, probably in consequence of political intrigues, he fell into disgrace with his fellow townsmen, and was again compelled to quit his native country. In 445 he betook himself to Athens in order to take part in the projected colonization of Thurii in Southern Italy. Here he gave public readings from the works which he had begun to compose in Samos (probably the portions relating to the Persian War). They met with such applause that he was rewarded with a present of ten talents (£2,000) from the public treasury. He is also said to have given similar recitations elsewhere--at the festal assembly of the Greeks at Olympia, and also at Corinth and Thebes. We are told that at one of these recitals Thucydides was present as a boy, and was so affected that he shed tears and resolved to devote himself to the writing of history. [See, however, Dahlmann's Life of Herodotus, chap. ii, sect. ii.] Herodotus was in close intercourse with the leading men of the day. In Athens, which he seems to have often visited, after having settled at Thurii (443), he knew Pericles and the poet Sophocles, who composed a special poem in his honour in 442. It was doubtless there that he was prompted to mould the materials of his history into a complete and artistic whole. He carried forward this plan at Thurii; but it is probable that his death, which occurred about 424, prevented his finishing his grand design. This work (which the Alexandrine critics divided into nine books, named after the nine Muses), marks the beginning of real historical writing among the Greeks. The industry of the earlier historical writers (known as Logographi, q.v.) had contented itself with collecting material for a limited purpose, such as histories of towns and families, arranged in an uncritical and inartistic manner. It is the merit of Herodotus, that, by his study of the existing literature and by his travels, he collected historical, geographical, and ethnographical materials relating to the greater part of the then known world, that he sifted them with some critical discernment, that he arranged them under leading topics, and set them forth in an original and attractive form. The true scope of the work, which embraces a period of 320 years down to the battle of Mycale (479), is the struggle between the Greeks and the barbarians; with this leading thread of his narrative are inwoven, in a countless number of episodes, descriptions of the countries and races, more or less closely connected with the principal events of the story, so that the result is a complete picture of the known world as it then existed. In subordination to this general object, the whole narrative is inspired with the one guiding thought, that all history is determined by a moral government of the world, ordained by a Providence which rules the destinies of man; and that every exaltation of man above the limits fixed by the eternal law of heaven excites the jealousy of the gods, and draws down an avenging Nemesis on the head of the guilty one himself, or his descendants. His veracity shows itself in the sharp distinction he draws between personal observation, oral information, and mere conjecture; his impartiality, his just recognition of praiseworthy qualities (even on the side of the enemy), is displayed in his frank censure of political or moral failings which he thinks he perceives in his friends; while his nobility of character is evinced by his hearty delight in all that is good and beautiful. Although by race Herodotus belonged to the Dorians, he nevertheless made use of the Ionic dialect which had been employed by his predecessors, the logographi, though at times he mingles it with Epic, Doric, and Attic forms. His simplicity of style recalls that of the logographi, but he far excels them in clearness and general intelligibility of composition, in a pleasing flow of language, in an epic, and often even redundant, fulness of expression, and above all in a genius for narrative, which he shows in the vivid description of the most diverse events.-- A biography of Homer, written in the Ionic dialect, bears the name of Herodotus; it is really the work of a rhetorician at the beginning of the 1st century of our era.
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