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The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in the Mediterranean and Asia at that time. It is not an impartial record but it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established without precedent the genre and study of history in the Western world, although historical records and chronicles existed beforehand.

Perhaps most importantly, it stands as one of the first, and surviving, accounts of the rise of the Persian Empire, the events of, and causes for, the Greco-Persian Wars between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. Herodotus portrays the conflict as one between the forces of slavery (the Persiansmarker) on the one hand, and freedom (the Atheniansmarker and the confederacy of Greek city-states which united against the invaders) on the other. It is to be noted that irony informs this account, for at around the time that Herodotus was writing and researching his book, Athens was an imperialist Greek empire in its own right (see the prelude in the article Peloponnesian War).

Herodotus seems to have travelled extensively around the ancient world, conducting interviews and collecting stories for his book. At the beginning of The Histories, Herodotus sets out his reasons for writing it:

The Histories was at some point through the ages divided into the nine books of modern editions, conventionally named after the Muses. The Histories contains a famous account of the Battle of Marathonmarker, of which Herodotus wrote:


Book I (Clio)

  • The rulers of Lydia (on the west coast of modern Turkeymarker): Candaules, Gyges, Sadyattes, Alyattes, Crœsus (6–7)
  • How Gyges took the kingdom from Candaules (8–13)
  • The singer Arion's ride on the dolphin (23–24)
  • Solon's answer to Crœsus's question that Tellus was the happiest person in the world (29–33)
  • Crœsus's efforts to protect his son Atys, his son's accidental death by Adrastus (34–44)
  • Crœsus's test of the oracles (46–54)
  • The answer from the Oracle of Delphi concerning whether Crœsus should attack the Persians (famous for its ambiguity): If you attack you will destroy a mighty empire (55–56)
  • Pisistratus' rises and falls from power as tyrant of Athens (59–64)
  • The rise of Spartamarker (65–68)
  • Crœsus's defeat by Cyrus II of Persia, and how he later became Cyrus's advisor (70–92)
  • The rulers of the Medes: Deioces, Phraortes, Cyaxares, Astyages, Cyrus II of Persia (95–144)
  • The rise of Deioces over the Medes
  • Astyages's attempt to destroy Cyrus, and Cyrus's rise to power
  • Harpagus tricked into eating his son, his revenge against Astyages by assisting Cyrus
  • The culture of the Persians
  • The history and geography of the Ionians, and the attacks on it by Harpagus
  • Pactyes' convinces the Lydians to revolt. Rebellion fails and he seeks refuge from Mazares in Cyme marker
  • The culture of Assyria, especially the design and improvement of the city of Babylonmarker and the ways of its people
  • Cyrus's attack on Babylon, including his revenge on the river Gyndes and his famous method for entering the city
  • Cyrus's ill-fated attack on the Massagetæ

Book II (Euterpe)

Book III (Thalia)

Book IV (Melpomene)

Book V (Terpsichore)

Book VI (Erato)

  • The fleeing of Histiaeus to Chiosmarker
  • The training of the Ionian fleet by Dionysius of Phocaea
  • The abandonment of the Ionian fleet by the Samiansmarker during battle
  • The defeat of the Ionian fleet by the Persians
  • The capture and death of Histiaeus by Harpagus
  • The invasion of Greecemarker under Mardonius and enslavement of Macedon
  • The destruction of 300 ships in Mardonius's fleet near Athos
  • The order of Darius that the Greeks provide him earth and water, in which most consent, including Aeginamarker
  • The Athenian request for assistance of Cleomenes of Sparta in dealing with the traitors
  • The history behind Sparta having two kings and their powers
  • The dethronement of Demaratus, the other king of Sparta, due to his supposed false lineage
  • The arrest of the traitors in Aegina by Cleomenes and the new king Leotychides
  • The suicide of Cleomenes in a fit of madness, possibly caused by his war with Argosmarker, drinking unmixed wine, or his involvement in dethroning Demaratus
  • The battle between Aegina and Athens
  • The taking of Eretriamarker by the Persians after the Eretrians sent away Athenian help
  • Pheidippides's encounter with the god Pan on a journey to Sparta to request aid
  • The assistance of the Plataeansmarker, and the history behind their alliance with Athens
  • The Athenian win at the Battle of Marathonmarker, led by Miltiades and other strategoi
  • The Spartans late arrival to assist Athens
  • The history of the Alcmaeonidae and how they came about their wealth and status
  • The death of Miltiades after a failed attack on Parosmarker and the successful taking of Lemnosmarker

Book VII (Polymnia)

  • The amassing of an army by Darius after learning about the defeat at Marathonmarker
  • The quarrel between which son should succeed Darius in which Xerxes I of Persia is chosen
  • The death of Darius in 486 BC
  • The defeat of the Egyptian rebels by Xerxes
  • The advice given to Xerxes on invading Greece: Mardonius for invasion, Artabanus against (9-10)
  • The dreams of Xerxes in which a phantom frightens him and Artabanus into choosing invasion
  • The preparations for war, including a canal and bridge across the Hellespontmarker
  • The offer by Pythius to give Xerxes all his money, in which Xerxes rewards him
  • The request by Pythius to allow one son to stay at home, Xerxes' anger, and the march out between the butchered halves of Pythius's son
  • The destruction and rebuilding of the bridges built by the Egyptians and Phoeniciansmarker at Abydosmarker
  • The siding with Persia of many Greek states, including Thessaly, Thebesmarker, Melia, and Argosmarker
  • The refusal of aid after negotiations by Gelo of Syracusemarker, and the refusal from Cretemarker
  • The destruction of 400 Persian ships due to a storm
  • The small Greek force (appox. 6000) led by Leonidas I, sent to Thermopylaemarker to delay the Persian army (~5,283,220 (Herodotus) )
  • The Battle of Thermopylaemarker in which the Greeks hold the pass for 3 days
  • The secret pass divulged by Ephialtes of Trachis in which Hydarnes uses to lead forces around the mountains to encircle the Greeks
  • The retreat of all but the Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans (forced to stay by the Spartans).
  • The Greek defeat and order by Xerxes to remove Leonidas' head and attach his torso to a cross

Book VIII (Urania)

  • Greek fleet is led by Eurybiades, a Spartan
  • The destruction by storm of two hundred ships sent to block the Greeks from escaping
  • The retreat of the Greek fleet after word of a defeat at Thermopylaemarker
  • The supernatural rescue of Delphimarker from a Persian attack
  • The evacuation of Athensmarker assisted by the fleet
  • The reinforcement of the Greek fleet at Salamis Islandmarker, bringing the total ships to 378
  • The destruction of Athens by the Persian land force after difficulties with those who remained
  • The Battle of Salamis, the Greeks have the advantage due to better organization, and less loss due to ability to swim
  • The description of the Angarum, the Persian riding post
  • The rise in favor of Artemisia, the Persian woman commander, and her council to Xerxes in favor returning to Persia
  • The vengeance of Hermotimus, Xerxes' chief eunuch, against Panionius
  • The attack on Androsmarker by Themistocles, the Athenian fleet commander and most valiant Greek at Salamis
  • The escape of Xerxes and leaving behind of 300,000 picked troops under Mardonius in Thessaly
  • The ancestry of Alexander I of Macedon, including Perdiccas
  • The refusal of an attempt by Alexander to seek a Persian alliance with Athens

Book IX (Calliope)

  • The second taking of an evacuated Athensmarker
  • The evacuation to Thebesmarker by Mardonius after the sending of Lacedaemonianmarker troops
  • The slaying of Masistius, leader of the Persian cavalry, by the Athenians
  • The warning from Alexander to the Greeks of an impending attack
  • The death of Mardonius by Aeimnestus
  • The Persian retreat to Thebes where they are afterwards slaughtered (Battle of Plataea)
  • The description and dividing of the spoils
  • The speedy escape of Artabazus into Asia.
  • The Persian defeat in Ionia by the Greek fleet, and the Ionian revolt
  • The mutilation of the wife of Masistes ordered by Amestris, wife of Xerxes
  • The death of Masistes after his intent to rebel
  • The Athenian blockade of Sestosmarker and the capture of Artayctes

Translations of the Histories

See also

External links


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