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Overview

Author

Herodotus

Year Published

440 BCE

Type

Nonfiction

Genre

History, Nonfiction

At a Glance

Histories is considered the first work of Western history. It is an account of the development of the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states, and the ensuing conflict that lasted for most of the first half of the 5th century BCE. The field of history takes its name from Herodotus's text. Unlike most of his contemporaries and earlier writers, Herodotus did not simply chronicle the events of the past. Instead, he sought answers to the how and why of historical events and, in the process, created a method of research for historical inquiry. Primarily, Herodotus wanted to understand the underlying reasons why the Greeks and Persians entered into conflict with each other. To do this, he gathered evidence, assessed claims for their truth value, and used this research to weave a story that explained how the wars between the Greeks and Persians began and proceeded. These techniques form the bedrock of the historian's craft today. Beyond launching the field of Western history, Histories remains a vital source for the study of the rise of Persia, the societies and histories of ancient Greece, western Asia, and North Africa, and the wars between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states between 499–49 BCE. Many elements of Histories should not be taken literally by a modern audience. Although he strove to produce an accurate account and weighed multiple accounts of events to draw firm conclusions, Herodotus included many stories that are, at best, fanciful or embellished, and at worst, fabricated. Nevertheless, Histories tells a riveting tale with many valuable insights into the sights, characters, and events of the ancient world.

About the Title

"Histories" is a translation of the Greek term historiai, meaning "inquiries." Herodotus presented his work as an inquiry into the question of how the conflict between the Greeks and Persians began and developed. His use of the term inquiries differentiates his text from chronicles, which are simple chronological accounts of things that happened. Herodotus wished to show not only what happened but also how and why.

Summary

This study guide for Herodotus's Histories offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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