Page images

portant still was the political work of Panyassis, who perished in an unsuccessful revolt against Lygdamis, grandson or haply younger son of Artemisia. After the death of Panyassis, Herodotus, who may have been implicated in the affair, is supposed to have withdrawn to Samos, and it is recorded that he bore a conspicuous part in the revolution that unseated Lygdamis in 455. In 454 the name of Halicarnassus appears on the roll of the Athenian allies who paid their quota to the fund levied for resistance to Persia. But faction begets faction, and Herodotus, who had ousted Lygdamis, was himself forced to withdraw, and we find him registered among those who joined the Athenian colony of Thurii, in Lower Italy, founded in 444. Hence he is sometimes called a Thurian. His tomb was there, but another tomb was shown in Athens, the city he loved so well. Shortly before going to Thurii he is said to have read a portion of his histories at Athens—which portion is much disputed—and to have received a public reward of ten talents for his praise of the violet-wreathed city. The amount is extravagant; the story reminds one of the old tale about Pindar, but a public recitation is not at all improbable, nor a public recognition of some kind.

Much of his time was spent in travel. What the modern historian finds useful for giving vividness and exactness to his narrative the ancient historian found indispensable for the collection of material. The day of the bookworm historians, whose journeys were limited to papyrus and to parchment, had not yet come. In point of fact, the geographer and the historian were one in the early time, and the differentiation did not take place until a comparatively late period. History (iotopla) means investigation, and the information sought had often to be gathered on the spot.

Attempts have been made to trace the travels of Herodotus in his work, not always with signal success. Continental Greece he knew, Athens beyond a doubt, and the traveller of to-day who stands in Sparta and looks out toward Therapne feels that he is on Herodotean ground. Some of the Cyclades he must have visited, but how many is open to question. His birthplace was on the coast of Asia Minor, and the coast of Asia Minor he must have known, and the greater islands in those waters, notably Samos, where he is said to have resided. Sardis he discusses as one who had seen the capital of Lydia. His voyage along the northern coast of Asia Minor seems to have extended to the mouth of the Phasis, but there is no cogent evidence of his personal knowledge of Scythia, and it has been suggested that he went no farther than Byzantium and gathered his material there for the regions beyond. But if he is as honest as we take him to be, his description of Exampæus (iv, 81) is based on actual vision, and it is desirable that he should have visited Olbia, a famous outpost of Greekdom, which he calls Borysthenes. Tyre he sought, as he tells us expressly. Of Babylon he writes as one that had seen with his own eyes. In Palestine he beheld the monuments of the triumphal march of Sesostris. Perhaps he saw them on his way to Egypt, where he must have sojourned for some time. But the extent of his actual vision of Egypt is much mooted. Of Upper Egypt he makes scant mention, but then he makes scant mention of Phænicia. That he never reached Elephantine is supposed to be proved by his calling Elephantine a city and not an island; but it was both then, as Rhodes became both afterward. Cyrene he most probably visited, and Lower Italy he knew-Thurii, at least, which he helped to colonize, and Metapontum. Sicily was near, and it seems likely that he knew Sicily. Likelihood and probability can not be excluded, but we may boldly say that Herodotus was qualified for membership even in an exigent Travellers' Club.

On these travels, on these researches, rests the great work which heads the long line of Greek prose classics, and a brief summary of the contents of the nine books that compose the “Setting Forth of Investigation ” may fitly precede the characteristic of this great achievement.

An Alexandrian scholar of some note denied that Herodotus wrote the preface of his work, but every word in it is significant, and, if properly studied, the preface gives the key to the whole. It gives the authorship. It tells us that it is a setting forth of investigation, that its object is to prevent the history of the world from being effaced by the lapse of time. The great and marvellous deeds wrought by Greeks and non-Greeks are not to be left unfamoused, and the cause of the war between them is to be set down. Thucydides is satisfied with how? Herodotus demands why? Thucydides looks to history as a lesson for future generations drawn from experience. Herodotus looks to history as a record of the dealings of a higher power. For the wrath of Achilles substitute the envy of the gods, and we have a movement like that of the “Iliad."

The history opens on mythical ground, but it is note

Orientals who came into contact with the Greeks, and it is sig. nificant that Crete plays the part of a breedbate, as she has always done from that day to this. The Eternal Feminine is at the bottom of the trouble between East and West, Io and Medea and Helen. But these old, unhappy, far-off things are soon dismissed, and we come in an early chapter to Cræsus the Lydian, the first to make the Greek feel the power of the East. The history of the dynasty of Cræsus and his overthrow by Cyrus, with the necessary account of the Medes and Persians, takes up about two thirds of the first book. Upon the subjection of the Lydian monarchy follows the subjugation of the Ionians and other peoples of Asia Minor—a task which was intrusted by Cyrus to his lieutenant Harpagus, while Cyrus himself undertook to reduce Babylon. After Babylon the Great comes the expedition of Cyrus against the Massagetæ, and his death in battle with Tomyris. It is a dramatic ending, a notable illustration of the envy of the gods, of the law of compensation. The second book, after briefly recording the accession of Cambyses and his designs on Egypt, takes Egypt itself for its theme, and so wholly is Egypt the theme that the book has been lifted out of the complex and treated as an independent work. But we must remember that biologists have succeeded in isolating the heart itself, and he who studies the second book aright can trace the fibres that unite it to the rest of the structure. It has not been simply let in. The third book tells of Cambyses's conquest of Egypt, his plans to subjugate other peoples of Africa, and various performances of that eeeentric monarch. But Greece is not forgotten. Greeks formed part of the army of Cambyses, and Polycrates of Samos was an ally of Cambyses, as he had been an ally of Amasis under the former Egyptian dynasty. Corinth made common cause with the Lacedæmonians against Polycrates, and this leads to the story of Periander of Corinth. Cambyses, Polycrates, and Periander are three shining examples of the unhappiness of supreme power, of the envy of the gods. But Samos was a digression, and Herodotus apologizes for it as he resumes the thread of his narrative of Persian history, and recounts the uprising of the false Smerdis, the death of Cambyses, and the reign of Smerdis, his overthrow, and the enthronement of his successor Darius, the great organizer of the Persian Empire. Indians and Arabians now come into the cycle. Samos is subjugated, and, as a preface to the subjugation, we learn the fate of Polycrates, and the book closes with an account of the revolt of Babylon and the quelling of the same. The Persian Empire is firmly rooted, and begins again to send forth its runners northward and westward. In the fourth book we follow Darius into the land of the Scythians, and many chapters are given up to Scythian history and geography. The Scythian expedition was a failure, and this failure encouraged the Ionians to plan a revolt. Nor was the attempt to extend the Persian rule over Libya an unqualified success. Most of the Libyans cared naught for the Great King, but the tale of the famous colony of Cyrene is told, and an account of the Libyans is given. Largely ethnographical and geographical as the fourth book is, it does not detach itself so much as does the second, and prepares us for the closer complication of Greece and Persia in the fifth. Thrace and Macedon furnish the introductory chapters to the Ionian revolt, which is the main theme of the remainder of the fifth book and the opening of the sixth. Upon the suppression of the Ionian revolt follows the first invasion of Greece by the Persians. In both books Athens comes to the front, and much interest is shown in the details of Athenian history. Books VII to IX give a consecutive history of the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, and the failure of the expedition. The digressions are few. The narrative moves on, unhasting and unresting, to the last chapter.

Such is a rapid outline of the nine books of Herodotusthe nine Muses, as they were fancifully named in Alexandrian times. The division, also due doubtless to Alexandrian scholars, is not original, and has been hotly assailed. But as the three original Muses became nine, so the three parts or volumes into which the work naturally falls may have been split along the lines of the several books as we have them. The last triad forms, as we have seen, a close unity, and there is a seductive theory that this last part in the order of time was the first part in the order of composition, and that the history of the second Persian war was a monograph, to which the other parts were afterward added. But there is a thread of narrative that holds the triple triad together, and there is no lack of art in the leisurely introduction, the side-light digressions, and the accelerated close. The art is the art of the “ Iliad” and the “ Odyssey."

But the unity of Herodotus, so much admired in antiquity, has been rudely attacked in modern times. Ancient critics laud the skill with which the vast material is disposed so as to preserve unity in variety, the skill with which the historian has made one body out of the most heterogeneous subjects, so that a oneness of life permeates the whole structure. Modern critics, on the other hand-or at least the most domineering school of modern critics-have pointed out the various layers in the composition, and have maintained that the history is not a unit, but a congeries of monographs. Herodotus, it seems, did not differ essentially from his predecessors, at least to begin with. He prepared accounts of his travels, and supplemented his own researches by compilations from various sources. There was no great conception in his mind

« PreviousContinue »