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What do we know about the life of Herodotus? Well, not a huge amount. End of article. No, just kidding. We do have some knowledge. Herodotus was from the Ionian area of the Greek world, that is to say, he was from the Eastern side of the Aegean and thus offers us a extra-Athenian perspective. He witnessed a world that had rapidly converged on Athens following the Persian war and whilst his work reflects this to some extent, it is not purely Atheno-centric in its thematic focus.

Herodotus was from Halicarnassus as he himself tells us at the start of his work, which was a Doric settlement, but his work is written in Ionic dialect. He seems to have been born to an influential family at a time when his hometown was under Persian rule. He was, therefore, placed to observe the empire.

He claimed to have travelled widely and to have verified much of the information that he included in his work. He may well have done so. He certainly came to Athens, a city he admired (5.78). A lovely story in Luciuan tells how Herodotus came to the Olympic games to give a reading of his work to great applause. He was sent up by Aristophanes in Acharnians, where he mocks Herodotus’ ‘female snatching’ explanation of early wars between the Greeks and Persians including the Trojan War.

His work is highly readable and enjoyable. Go and try it!

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