Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English


Herodotus (c. 490-480 ­ c. 425 bce) is considered the “father of history” since with his work, The Histories he seems to have invented the genre in the Western world. Indeed, he here too first coins the term history, meaning “inquiry.” His subject is the Persian threat to Greece (500 – 449 bce) and the Persian invasions, the first of which took place before his birth and the second when he was a child.

Within this new historical perspective, which because he was relying on oral traditions ends up being at times an uncomfortable mix of history proper and myth, he conveyed his own slant that history is comprised of the whims of mighty and influential people and that behind this, destiny serves as the root cause of events (hence the regular reporting of oracles). He reports the stories of many individuals, and is regarded as a compelling storyteller. In The Histories he also tends to glorify Athens; for example, he attributes the Athenian victory over the Persian army near Marathon to Athens’ general virtue and its system of “freedom” (Histories 5.78). In fact, because of detectable lapses in objectivity, he was also called the “father of lies” by some.

For his text on the Persian Wars, click here.

Works Consulted

Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.

Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt, eds. Literature of the Western World, Volume 1. 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.