Skip to content
  • Activity
  • Level 1: Introductory

Herodotus 'The Histories'

Updated Tuesday 16th September 2014

Find out more about our Classical past by exploring the digital text of Herodotus’ ‘The Histories’ with online mapping and an interactive map-and-narrative timeline 'mashup'.

Explore ‘The Histories’ by Herodotus: an open enquiry

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: OASC www.metmuseum.org Marble bust of Herodotus

Sometime in the middle of the 5th century BC, Herodotus, a Greek, living in a city called Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey) set out to explain the origins of the Great War from a generation before. This war was waged between his peoples, the Greeks, and the Persians.

In the resulting work, ‘The Histories’, Herodotus explores the world of his own time, offering a narrative discourse that reflects on conflicts in the past that had given rise to its present organisation. He remarks on noteworthy deeds of Greek and non-Greek people, placing his narrative in the context of towns and cities that had risen and fallen. In ‘The Histories’, Herodotus is carrying out one of the earliest known ethnographic descriptions, as well as historical enquiry.

‘Publishing’ in this period did not just involve the production of a written text, but the reading of that text out loud before an audience, and it’s claimed ‘the Histories’ were read aloud, in full, at the Olympic Games. Herodotus is described by some as the 'Father of History', but his fantastic stories have also given rise to the name 'Father of Lies'.

For generations, ancient historians have been grappling with the challenge of sorting out the ‘truth’ of Herodotus’ stories. By exploring this Herodotus OpenLearn Collection, we can all join that grand tradition, and become research historians.

Our word for ‘history’ comes from the Greek word historia (or historiê in some dialects), meaning ‘enquiry’, which Herodotus uses right at the beginning of his narrative. In these activities, we try to show that history is really a matter of ‘open enquiry’. If you want to really understand the past, you have to research it, not just take someone’s word for it.

Herodotus structures his account as discourse: this group said this, the other group said that, I for one cannot say for sure . . . In this way, he reproduces the ‘enquiry’ effect, with the result that to be a reader of Herodotus is to become an historian. Find out how by following the links in the menu below.

The Hestia Project

The Hestia project brings this enquiry into the 21st century medium of digital technologies.

Browse the project team’s objectives and watch a short video clip from the academic lead, Dr. Elton Barker, before embarking on your own exploration and enquiry via our OpenLearn Collection, the Hestia map and selected links to external sources on the Internet.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Understanding Classical terms Creative commons image Icon No known copyright restrictions: British Library via The Commons under Creative-Commons license activity icon

History & The Arts 

Understanding Classical terms

Anyone reading and writing about the Classical world needs to make various choices concerning consistency in defining dates, spelling  and use of names. Here’s some guidance from the OU 219 Course Team.

Activity
Crowdsourced annotation: what do you think? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum activity icon

History & The Arts 

Crowdsourced annotation: what do you think?

Take a look at 'crowdsourced' resources to help understand ‘The Histories’ alongside the Hestia project. We direct you to other resources so that you may extend your enquiry by comparing accounts, cross-referencing evidence, or verifying sources.

Activity
‘Lydios logos’: the story of Croesus activity icon

History & The Arts 

‘Lydios logos’: the story of Croesus

Herodotus tells the story of Croesus in the first tale, or ‘logos’, of his great work ‘The Histories’. Explore the contradictions in his narrative with other contemporary and archaeological evidence. Think about the extent to which Herodotus deserves his title ‘father of history’.

Activity
The Persians by Aeschylus Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

History & The Arts 

The Persians by Aeschylus

In this Greek tragedy, Persian king Xerxes wages war against Greece but his navy is defeated at Salamis.

Video
A closer look at Roman pottery Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Paul Hatherley article icon

History & The Arts 

A closer look at Roman pottery

Paul Hatherley starts to evaluate the Daresbury data.

Article
The City: The Roman and Greek Cities Creative commons image Icon Image by CharChen via Flickr under Creative Commons licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

The City: The Roman and Greek Cities

The concept of the city was central to both the Roman and the Greek sense of identity.

Article
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Daresbury Creative commons image Icon ofey under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Daresbury

Paul Hatherly explains how the synchrotron radiation source is able to unravel tales from the pigments of historic artefacts.

Article
Roman footwear Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

History & The Arts 

Roman footwear

Romans might be known for their sandals - but there's much more in their shoeboxes.

Article
Hadrian, Rome and the Roman Empire Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Eryk Rogozinski | Dreamstime.com article icon

History & The Arts 

Hadrian, Rome and the Roman Empire

Reveal the stories of Hadrian's Wall and take a look at the legacy the Ancient Romans have left behind. 

Article