Who Is Herodotus the Father of History?

14 mins read
Who Is Herodotus the Father of History?

Who Is Herodotus the Father of History?

Who Is Herodotus the Father of History?

Herodotus of Halicarnossos

Herodotos, in Halicarnassus (Bodrum) in Western Anatolia BC. Born in 484, he is the world’s first research historian and author. He wrote his work, Historia, which made him famous, in prose. Herodotus, who was given the title “Pater Historiae” (Father of History) in Latin by the Roman statesman, scholar and writer Cicero. He lived until 425. His tomb is in the agora of the city of Thurium. The Latin name of the city, Thurii, is today’s Italian name Thurio and is located in the Taranto Bay in the south of Italy.

Herodotus is not a Greek, but a Carian. Halicarnassus, the city where he was born, is the capital of Caria. His father is Lyxes, his mother is Dryo, his brother is Theodoras, and his uncle is Panyassis.

These names are not from the Greek language, but from the original Karian language. However, Herodotus did not write in his native language, Carian, but in the Ionian language, which fell to the north of Halicarnassus. The reason this; In that age, this language was used by educated scholars. Herodotus learned the Ionian language, a widespread and rich literary language, during his youth.

Bust of herodot
Bust of herodot

Herodotus’s Travels

Herodotus was a member of a large family that had a say in Anatolia. At that time, Halicarnassus was ruled by Artemisia, the fearless warrior and the world’s first female admiral, the Queen of Caria. When Heredot was a young boy, instead of Artemisia, his grandson II. Lygda had become king. This new ruler, who was subordinate to the Persian King Artaxerxes, was viewed as a tyrant by the people who were fond of their freedom.

For this reason, a revolutionary group led by Panyassis, Herodot’s uncle and a well-known poet, rose up to free their country from the Persian yoke, but this attempt failed. When his uncle Panyassis was killed as a result of this uprising, Herodotus went into exile from Halicarnassus, which he loved so much, to Samos. After his departure, he went on great journeys of discovery, where he had the knowledge to have his book published, which will make him known to the world even today.

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B.C. World map of the 5th century

At a time when more than two thousand and four hundred years ago there were only riding animals as a means of transportation and the roads were full of danger, Herodotus really made very difficult and long journeys. He visited Thrace, all Anatolian cities such as Lydia and Phrygia, the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean coasts, Egypt, Phoenician, Iran, Macedonia, Greece and reached Sicily. He already wrote his book here and died here. He traveled both by land and by sea during his travels and gathered information about the history, geography, culture, beliefs, legends and lifestyles of these cities by chatting with whoever he encountered.

He also met with the city’s administrators and examined the official documents in some places where he was located, thus aiming to reach the correct information. The only and biggest source of encouragement for Herodotus, who has made such difficult journeys, is of course the love of seeing and learning new places in him. For this reason, Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, known with the pseudonym “Fisherman of Halicarnassus”, rightly called Herodotus “the world’s first major tourist”. As a twist of fate, Cevat Şakir is a scholar who was exiled to the country where Herodotus was exiled and fell in love with it.

How Did Heredot Earn From Her Travels?

So how did Herodotus get the income he needed during these long journeys? The answer is quite simple actually. In an age where there was no newspaper, television, radio and internet yet, the biggest entertainment and only source of information for people were those from outside the city. For this reason, street artists who came to the city and performed various plays received very high wages from the managers. Because they could not only entertain and distract the public, but also bring important information with them from other cities.

The speeches made by a well-educated and constantly traveling scholar like Herodotus were very valuable. What he told about recent events, legends and other things in other cities was remarkable to everyone. The best example of this is Athens travel. Herodotus, who went to Athens and was welcomed, found an audience and gave speeches there. Herodotus told about the attacks and actions of the Persians in Anatolia and Greece on the platform called “pniks”. At that time, Anatolia and Greece were considered natural allies against the Persian occupation.

Herodotus was able to impress Athenian men with his account. The rulers of the city paid Herodotus ten talents, which could be considered a fortune at that time, as he encouraged the people against the Persians they were fighting. The reason why Herodotus was so impressive was that he made the characters in historical events talk and thus enriched his narrative power.

Perhaps this is why he decided to write about the stories he told, and especially the attacks of Persians in Anatolia and Greece, which was on the agenda at that time. In addition, he himself witnessed these historical events. Herodotus himself explained why he wrote his work in his first book and wrote as follows: “Let the deeds of man be not forgotten in time. The wonders created by the Greek and foreigners should not remain anonymous. My aim is to understand why they would fight. ”

Herodotus and Historia

After Athens, Herodot went to the city of Thurium, which was founded by the Athenians, and wrote his work, Historia, here. The main subject of the book is the land and sea wars between the Persian Empire and the ancient Greek city states and the reasons that gave rise to these wars. But this work of Herodotus, at the same time; It also includes the information he learned, observed and researched during his travels about Anatolia, Persia, Egypt, Greek geographies, history, folklore, art, architecture and mythology.

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Statue of Herodotus in Vienna

He wrote the book based on what people he met during his travels, his own observations and the documents he studied. Herodotus tried to write as scientifically and objectively as possible and conveyed all his views. He never defended that what he told was completely true, just said that he was conveyed to him like this. If he knew exactly what he was telling, he preferred to convey what he heard without commenting in his own words, if not.

This work can be said to be the first historical research conducted in an impartial and scientific manner, and in this context, it led to the birth of the science of history. In addition to historical information, it is of great importance that he gives detailed information about the cultures and social life of that period and that he writes in detail without making sections to shorten his work while transferring this information, in terms of providing the transfer of information that is considered very important today.

Historia’s Subject

He mentions the reasons of the Trojan war, the legends of kidnapping between the Greeks and the Eastern countries, how the Lydian King Croesus and his homeland were occupied by Persia, as well as the solar eclipse in a war between the Lydians and the Medes. He talks about the Egyptian burial customs, how the pyramids were made, and the bottom-up flow of the Nile.

He talks about the Persian-Egyptian wars, the cities in the Persian country, their organization and the conquest, the Persian kings drinking boiled water on their journeys, the nations and number of the army of the Persian ruler Xerxes, the Carian Queen Artemisia and her actions in the Salamis Sea Battle. He talks about trees that make wool whiter than sheep’s wool in India, that is, cotton. He describes the Skyths (Scythians) as “ghost horsemen” and talks about how they milked their mares, the Amazons, and how they arose.

He gives us this and similar interesting, important and detailed information in his book. All of this work has reached today. There is no other book he has written other than this work. Somewhere in his work he mentions that he wrote a work called “The Tales of Assyria”, but there is no trace of this work, maybe it has never been written. Historia has been collected in nine books centuries after it was written.

These nine books are divided into three parts. Each book begins with the names of the Musalar. Muses are the daughters of Zeus and the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne, and they are the muse. Starting from the first book, respectively; The names of Klio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsikhore, Erato, Polymnia, Urania and Kalliope were given.

Historia Science

Although Herodotus’s work has been subjected to various criticisms of many historians over time, it is an immortal masterpiece. Indeed, the science of history was born with this book. The name of his book “Historia” is used today as the equivalent of the word “History”. This work is published as Herodotus History or Herodotus History in Turkish.

However, the word “Historia”, which is the name that Herodotus gave to his work, means “research, investigation, obtaining information”. It is an undoubted fact that this word gained the meaning of “history” over the centuries and became a whole branch of social sciences thanks to the work written by Herodotus, accepted as the “Father of History”. There have been many new historians inspired by his book.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who emerged from the sea of ​​knowledge and civilization of the Aegean coasts, is a great traveler, narrator, creator and writer.

Although this great author’s book, which has provided great convenience in understanding the traditions, customs and culture of human civilization, whose effects have continued until today, has been read by the intellectuals in every age, it is an inexcusable mistake that it has not been learned enough and its importance is not understood. His work should be among the basic works to be read in order to increase general cultural knowledge. Because the history of Anatolia begins with the history of Herodotus.


Secrets of Anatolia – Kitabü’l Esrar fi Anatolia – Kerim Kuvetli
Historia – Herodot (Herodotos)


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