Herodotus: Histories

English (this page) Greek

Ancient Greek text and translations presented by the Classics Reader Clicking here you move to the page for downloading Classics Reader
Click here to position the text of the book at the top of this page. Please wait while the applet and the contents of the book are loading. (This is only a demo; there are no delays in the stand-alone program.) Some introductory information regarding Herodotus and his work follows after the book, below.

Please note: The above is only a Java applet, in which features such as “find word” are not functional. To obtain the stand-alone program in which such functions have been implemented and are working, as well as to see what else will be included in the future, go to the downloading page.

Herodotus (credit: encycl. Biocrawler)
  Herodotus is the author of The Histories. The word “history” meant “inquiry” in ancient Greek, and if it acquired its present meaning it is because of Herodotus, “the Father of History”, as Cicero called him. He was born ca. 484 BC in Halicarnassus of Asia Minor (present day Turkey). At a young age, while in Halicarnassus, he participated in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the local tyrant Lygdamis, and for this he was exiled. While in exile, he traveled to many places, including the Persian Empire, Egypt, and southern Italy. In Greece he must have lived for some time on the island of Samos (birthplace of Pythagoras), and in Athens. Since he was not Athenian-born, however, he could not become an Athenian citizen with full rights. So when Athens scheduled a colonization of southern Italy at Thurii, in 444 BC, Herodotus participated and thus left Athens. He probably died in Italy, ca. 425 BC.

The authoritativeness of Herodotus’s work has been questioned since antiquity. However, archaeological and anthropological discoveries in the 20th century have largely restored his authority and veracity. Herodotus often presents a number of different opinions on an issue, and then proceeds to state his own opinion and the reasons why he supported it.

Histories is considered the first work of history in Western literature, and was written in the Ionian dialect of ancient Greek, ca. 440 BC. It was later divided in 9 books, and each was given the name of one of the nine muses of Greek mythology: Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Urania, and Calliope (in that order). The work starts by documenting the rise of Persians in Asia, recounting as well stories about other Asian peoples, their customs, and their rulers; then takes us to a tour of Egypt and other places and peoples in Africa; describes people inhabiting regions to the north of the Mediterranean Sea, in Europe and around the Black and Caspian Seas; finally, it focuses on Greece and the campaigns of Persian kings to subdue the Greeks, first under king Darius ca. 490 BC, and then under king Xerxes, ca. 480 BC, both of which ended up in Persian defeat.

Because Western thought has been fundamentally based on principles that first emerged in ancient Greece (e.g., rationality, questioning of authority, freedom from superstition, objective examination of nature, equality of people, etc.), and since such principles took form and crystalized in Greece primarily in the “classical times” (the century that followed the failed Persian invasion), it is not unreasonable to surmise that the Western European civilization might have taken a different course, had the Persians succeeded back in the 5th C. BC. In particular, one wonders what the Enlightenment in the 17th-18th C. would be without its classical roots: would the same principles be discovered then, all of a sudden? Would science be the same without the influence of its ancient Greek heritage? All these are interesting questions that motivate people to acquire a more intimate knowledge of the events that Herodotus describes in his Histories.

The following is a depiction of the Mediterranean world as imagined by ancient Greeks at Herodotus’s time, who knew of the places shown below only through the travels and second- or third-hand story-telling of people:

Map of landmark places and peoples mentioned in The Histories (from the Wikipedia, original here)


Known Issues regarding the Classics Reader

Why is the text printed in this funny fashion, with letters appearing to “push” each other, until they all fall in place?

That behavior is observed only in the Java applet of this page (not in the stand-alone program), and occurs because each letter is an image (a GIF). Web browsers (as well as the Java engine that’s responsible for displaying those GIFs on your screen) show images in a random order when they have to show more than one of them on the same page. Thus, character images appear on a first-loaded-first-displayed basis, until they are all in place. However, once an image is loaded it doesn’t need to be reloaded when re-printed, unless you jump out of this page; that’s why this funny behavior diminishes as you scroll down the text. However, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program, because that one runs locally on your computer.

Why is this weird font used for classical texts? Why does the circumflex look strange? Why don’t the letters look more like the usual ancient Greek letters of classical literature or the Bible?

The font employed by Classics Reader is the standard Times Roman font used in Greek literature in Greece, to print both modern and classical texts. The circumflex is correct according to that tradition. The reader who wonders about this issue is probably more familiar with fonts used in western Europe and the USA to print classical and biblical Greek texts. There is no reason why the latter tradition should be preferred over the former. Note that west European and American fonts for ancient Greek texts cannot be “closer to the original”, because ancient texts were hand-written by scribes, so their appearance depended on the scribe’s handwriting; it was only relatively recently that typography standardized what is now recognized as “ancient Greek font” in the West.

Sometimes, when using the scrollbars of the browser (not the Classics Reader’s own ones), some line or lines appear misprinted in the Reader’s text.

This is a problem created by the browser, and it appears occasionally when scrolling up or down, while a Java applet attempts to paint in its own rectangle. To refresh the text, click on the Chapter selection (the middle of the three choice-boxes) and select the same chapter that you are currently reading. Once again, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program.

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