Herodotus’s The History as a Self-Referential Work

Herodotus’s The History as a Self-Referential Work

By Claire Horrell

The Yale Historical Review, Vol.2:1 (2012)

Abstract: This essay examines the style of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 BC-c. 425 BC), considered ‘the Father of History’ – the fist historian to collecthis materials systematically and arrange them in a vivid narrative. Today, Herodotus’s The History stands among the finest works of Western Canon. The History records the rise of the Persian Empire and the events and causes of the Greco-Persian Wars (502–449 BC) in a distinctly personal voice. Claire’s essay traces Herodotus’ use of the first-person as a vehicle for historical narration and how authorial voice often plays a role in our reading of history.

Herodotus, the so-called ‘Father of History’, begins his account of the Greco-Persian Wars with elan: “I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, am here setting forth my history.” With these very first words, the author boldly defines the tone and content of his account, simultaneously establishing himself as the arbiter of the text’s authenticity, and placing The History is stark contrast with its precursors. By analyzing The History’s opening line, one can determine not only the true meaning of the work, but also what Herodotus has set forth as the role of the reader and therefore what he intends as the underlying purpose of his work.

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