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Herodotus - The Father of History

The first, of course, is that no one invented History; History is simply the result of the slow unfurling of time and the actions of those who have lived and died within its murky eddies. But the study of those actions, which we also call history, has a more definite beginning. For many of us in the Western world today, it began with a man named Herodotus. Herodotus helped establish a historical tradition that continues to this day. Herodotus has been called both the Father of History and the Father of Lies. He was an ancient Greek historian born around 484 B.C. He was from the city of Halicarnassus (now Bodrum, Turkey) in Caria, a region in southwestern Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). While much about his life is unknown, we do know a little about his origins and how he became known as the "father of history" who inspired a new discipline and generations of historians.

Herodotus wrote "Histories" in the second half of the fifth century B.C., according to the British Library. It is the world's first known historical narrative, which describes several historical events, including the Ionian Revolt (499 B.C.), as well as the nomadic Scythian horsemen from Eurasia.

The word Herodotus used to describe his work was "historia," which, in time, came to mean history as we understand it today. He was interested in much more than just political and military narrative. He gives lengthy descriptions of the social and religious customs of other peoples ("ethnography"), of man-made wonders (for instance, the walls of Babylon and the pyramids in Egypt) and of the natural world (the causes of the annual flooding of the Nile)." He travelled across the world, speaking with the local people he encountered and asking many questions wherever he went. This is how he obtained the various accounts that he would include in "Histories."

"There are plenty of things in Herodotus' writing that we can pretty certainly say are not true, and there are many stories that today we would classify as legendary or mythical," Baron said. While it is true that Herodotus' methods of recording history are different from modern historians', this does not necessarily make him a liar. He was impartial in his collection of facts and stories, and made great efforts to acquire them from different sources. "The notion that Herodotus deliberately told lies is based on a misunderstanding of his approach and objectives. He was interested in the truth, but he also recognized how complicated it could be," Baron said.

Much of Herodotus' writing about the Greek and Persian wars is dramatic and engaging. Some of the more famous stories in "Histories" include the running Athenian hoplites at the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) and the last stand of the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.). Herodotus' records are the earliest accounts of these events.

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