Herodotus, the Man Who Invented History

In the 5th century B.C. Herodotus set off on an ambitious mission to record the glorious achievements and remarkable events of the past so that these things wouldn’t be forgotten.

He declares at the start of the Histories:

“Herodotus of Halicarnassos here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds – some displayed by Greeks, some by Barbarians – may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two peoples fought each other.”

And thus history was born.

Herodotus doesn’t generally get much play among academic historians (which is probably why I like him), but he is considered to be the father of history.  Reading the Histories is like reading a modern day literary travel-writing book.

Justin Marozzi on Herodotus:

“Herodotus’ first-person comments and asides reveal an educated, enlightened, adventurous, endlessly curious man with a dancing intellect and a felicitous turn of phrase, someone with a powerful sense of wonder and an all-encompassing humanity, brimming with relentless wanderlust and irrepressible storytelling zeal, revelling in his fizzing sexual curiosity and fierce tolerance of other cultures, buoyed along on the currents of historical inquiry by his continent-spanning humour, ranging wit and questing wisdom.”

I’m feeling the call of history again.  I’ve returned to Justin Marozzi and his book The Man Who Invented History as a starting point.

One, because Marozzi is considered to be one of the new breed of historians – a historian as travel writer type – and as such approaches history as narrative storytelling like Herodotus, the father of history did.

That’s a good place to start, I think, both with Marozzi’s text and Herodotus’s text to rekindle my history roots.


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