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Herodotus: The Father of History or the Father of Lies. Which Judgement do you perceive to be the more accurate?

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Introduction

Herodotus: The Father of History or the Father of Lies. Which Judgement do you perceive to be the more accurate? Herodotus was first thought of as the 'Father of History' by the Roman statesman Cicero, due to the fact that his book, called The Histories on the subject of the Persian Wars, is often considered the first of its style. However he is also referred as the 'Father of Lies', for many of the statements in his work are unfounded, unproved and have been shown to be false. It is thought that Herodotus began work on his histories in 443BC, he had however been travelling around Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, gathering information that would later prove useful when writing the history of his travels and the war. The earlier sections of his work concentrate on the customs, traditions, history and legends of the peoples of the ancient world, such as the Lydians, Persians and Egyptians. It is likely that Herodotus actually did travel to many of the places where he describes, and his audience would have found the anecdotes and digressions of his work scintillating, delightful and insightful since they would have little or even no knowledge of these lands. To his critics Herodotus was an unnecessary romantic whose work lacked serious analysis and commentary, and concentrated too much on the trivial and superficial stories in order that his work would be available to those other than an academic elite. ...read more.

Middle

Dionysius of Halicarnassus was writing around 400 years after Herodotus. He was interested in the beginnings of history and what determines a good historian. He stated that, although there had been a few local historians emerging around and before the time of Herodotus, they were insular in comparison, and 'he chose not to write down the history of a single city or nation, but to put together many, varied events of Europe and Asia in a single comprehensive work.' In a letter to his friend Gnaeus Pompeius Geminus, he makes a comparison between Herodotus and Thucydides, showing, according to 'the six rules of good history', how Herodotus was in fact the better historian. Herodotus' subject matter was that of a glorious war where Greece was the clear victor. Dionysius also makes the case that Herodotus has known exactly what to include in his book, and what order to put it in, so that it is, informative and yet enjoyable at the same time. Herodotus' tone is always appropriate being neither harsh nor outspoken. Finally he points out that Herodotus' style is fine and measured throughout. With exception to the final point, Dionysius does not feel that Thucydides has in any way fulfilled these points. The argument that Dionysius makes for Herodotus certainly seems convincing. However, it is important to remember that Dionysius is not entirely objective, as he comes from the home town of Herodotus and would therefore have felt an affinity with the Historian. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, In book 6, chapter 30, Darius is made out as a good delagator, and forgiving, and in book 5, chapter 124 he is said to be militarily formidable, "Darius succeeded all other generals". However in most other parts of the book he said to have been vengeful and tyrannical. Other Homeric elements include his extensive categorisation and also genealogy, which also emphasises the oral tradition. In conclusion, it is difficult to perceive whether Herodotus was indeed the father of lies or the father of history. Clearly there are many example of where Herodotus lied or stretched the truth: he could not have witnessed all speeches and therefore there may have been inaccuracies in his work. Critics like Plutarch had the belief that Herodotus was overly romantic in his writings and this hampered his ability to always tell a fully analytical history in a chronological and linear fashion. We could view his omissions and inaccuracies as artist superfluities that enriched his work and made it an enjoyable, interesting and informative read. Clearly Herodotus' work was indeed groundbreaking and the first of its kind, his account of the Persian wars is the most complete and is regarded by academics throughout time as not only a great piece of literature, like Dionysius, but also as a reliable historian. Therefore it is my opinion that Herodotus is certainly the definitive father of History, which has elements of untruthfulness. ...read more.

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