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  • Michael Bird


(b Halikarnassos [now Bodrum, Turkey], c. 484 bc; d ?Thurii [nr Sibari, Calabria], c. 425 bc). Greek historian. His life is poorly documented, but after early political exile from Halikarnassos he seems to have spent time on Samos and in the Athenian colony of Thurii in southern Italy, as well as in Athens itself. His travels included voyages to Egypt and to the Black Sea region (see Scythian and Sarmatian art, §1). Herodotus is known as the ‘father of history’, since he was the first to approach the writing of history in a systematic manner with an attempt to authenticate evidence and present it cogently. He left one work, the Histories, which centres on the Greco-Persian wars of 499–479 bc; these ended with the defeat of the Achaemenid forces by Athens around the time of Herodotus’ birth. The first half of the Histories explores the background to the might of the Achaemenid empire, while the second follows the course of the wars with Greece. Herodotus’ narrative, later divided into nine books (‘Muses’), embraces a wealth of geographical, historical and political commentary, as well as a repertory of fantastical travellers’ tales. These last have earned him the alternative sobriquet ‘father of lies’, although many of his other observations have been endorsed by modern scholarship and archaeology. Herodotus is not only an important source for Greek history in the period ...

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G. Wissowa, W. Kroll and K. Mittelhaus, eds: Paulys Realencyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 10 vols and suppls (Stuttgart, 1894–1978)