« PreviousContinue »
Histories of Herodotus
With a Critical and Biographical Introduction
F the life of Herodotus, the Father of History, little
is known. The date commonly accepted for his birth
is 484 B. c, and he is supposed not to have survived the year 424. Both dates rest on combinations. He was a native of Halicarnassus, a Dorian city of Caria, and was proud of his Doric blood. But the Doric speech of Halicarnassus was in time supplanted by the Ionic, which was the prevalent Asiatic type of Greek, and in a Halicarnassian inscription of 455 B. c. only the opening formula is Doric. Halicarnassus was thrust out of the Dorian league because of a sin which one of the citizens had committed against the majesty of Apollo, and fell first under Lydian and then under Persian sway. At the time of Herodotus's birth it was held as a fief of the Persian Empire by Artemisia, the high-hearted heroine of Salamis.
Herodotus was of a noble family, the son of Lyxes and Dryo, or Rhoio, and a kinsman of Panyassis, the diviner, the poet, the reviver of the epic. What the relation was is not clear. Intermarriage among the Greeks was often complex, and Panyassis, his mother's brother, may readily have been his father's nephew. At all events, the connection with Panyassis lends especial significance to the Herodotean weakness for dreams and omens, signs and wonders, and makes still more intelligible the historian's familiarity with epic poetry, and the epic cast and colouring of his narrative; and when we read that Herodotus undertook a long voyage in order to investigate the origin of the worship of Tyrian Heracles, we recollect that Panyassis composed a Heraclels. More im