Essay: Herodotus's Work "The Histories" Is Conceived

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Herodotus's work "The Histories" is conceived on two different levels. On an objective level, the historian attempts to paint the image of the people and nations of his time and to give a thorough description of the respective nation's political and religious organizations, traditions, positive and negative aspects etc. On the other hand, on a subjective level, the historian also has his own discourse, one where he uses his work to express his own beliefs and ideas about the respective ethnographies. At the same time, his historical work also transforms itself in many cases into a philosophical, often melancholic and pessimistic approach to life.

The philosophical approach is not only a perspective on life and afterlife, but also a way for Herodotus to use a series of aphorisms that help him create a more global picture of human kind, one that can be universal rather than limited to the people that he analyzes in his work. In Book 1, for example, such aphorisms abound as he tells the story of Candaules, ruler of Lydia, and how Gyges, his favorite spearman fell in love with the queen. Throughout paragraph 8 of Book 1, Herodotus mentions that "men trust their ears less than their eyes" (1.8) and that "when a woman puts off her tunic, she puts off her modesty also." These are both elements of the subjective level that Herodotus uses to picture humanity.

Similarly, he uses the phrase "in peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their sons" (1.87) with different meanings. On one part, it is a simple objective observation of the times he lives in. Indeed, during Antiquity, it is likely that war could simply wipe out entire youth populations in certain towns and villages. On the other hand, it is probably also a melancholic interpretation of war and what it brings compared to peace: a distortion of the natural development of things. In a rational world, fathers should never bury their sons.

Other parts of the work are pure objective descriptions of certain facts. For example, still in book 1, paragraph 6 is strictly dedicated to a brief geographical location of the land and people ruled by Craessus. The description is almost exhaustive, naming seas, rivers, people and connecting all these elements together to give a complete picture of the location of the Lydian people.

These examples continue throughout the book, such as in Book 2,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Herodotus's Work "The Histories" Is Conceived."  Essaytown.com.  October 6, 2009.  Accessed May 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/herodotus-work-histories-conceived/56868.