Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course


Download this course

Share this free course

Herodotus and the invention of history
Herodotus and the invention of history

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.


one of the terms that Homer uses to refer to the Greek army in the Iliad.
son of Peleus and the goddess Thetis and star of Homer’s Iliad. The greatest of the Greek heroes at Troy.
brother of Menelaos and leader of the Greek coalition at Troy.
Greek term meaning ‘cause’, ‘reason’ or ‘origin’.
the son of Priam, king of Troy. Also known as Paris, his abduction of Helen leads to the Trojan War.
a two-handled storage jar (typically for wine) with a neck narrower than the body.
son of Zeus and Hera, and god of prophecy and healing. His main site of divination was at Delphi.
a growing power at the time of Herodotus’ Histories (sixth–fifth century BCE), which Herodotus himself puts down to their new-found equality under democracy (5.78.1).
a Greek poet of the generation before Herodotus (c. 518–c. 451 BCE).
Greek term meaning ‘foreigner’. This term derives from the Greek view that to their ears other peoples spoke gibberish, i.e. ‘bar bar’ (like the English ‘blah blah’)
also known as Myrsilos, a king of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia in the early years of the seventh century BCE (c. 680 BCE). The last of the Heraklidai dynasty.
last of the Mermnad kings of Lydia. Reigns c. 585–c. 546 BCE until defeated by the Persians under Cyrus.
founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Reigns c. 600–530 BCE.
the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means.
poetry that focuses either on the stories of the semi-divine heroes (‘heroic epic’, as in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) or on the cosmos and how gods and humans fit in with it (in Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days respectively).
daughter of the king of Tyre in Phoenicia. Zeus abducts her by taking the form of a bull and carries her to Crete.
another term for the Black Sea or Pontus.
favourite bodyguard of Candaules who usurps the throne and establishes the Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings. Reigns c. 680–644 BCE
the god of the underworld.
the hometown of Herodotus, with a mixed population of Greeks and Carians. Now Bodrum (Turkey).
wife of Menelaos of Sparta (brother of Agamemnon). Her abduction by (or elopement with) Alexander is the cause of the Trojan War.
the descendants of the Greek hero, Heracles (in Latin, Hercules).
a legendary figure who, living a generation before people like our own, still consorted with the gods and fought cataclysmic wars, such as the one at Troy.
the poetic metre used by Homer, comprising six metrical feet in each line and consisting of a combination of short and long syllables. It is also the metre used for the oracles of Delphi which Herodotus quotes
Greek term meaning ‘enquiry’, used by Herodotus to describe his narrative. It is from Herodotus’ use that we get the word ‘history’.
daughter of Inachos, first king of Argos. Desired by Zeus, Io is turned into a cow (either by Zeus or by his jealous wife, Hera). In this form, and driven mad by a gadfly, she wanders the earth until she finds her way to Egypt. There she is changed into human form by Zeus and gives birth to his son, Epaphos.
Greeks living on the Eastern Mediterranean shore (modern-day Turkey), who are the first Greeks conquered (by Croesus). This area was the birthplace of the Greek revolution in scientific thinking, out of which Herodotus emerges.
Greek term meaning ‘glory’ or ‘fame’.
another name for Spartans.
a term applied to describe the people living in Lydia, a region of western Anatolia (the present-day east Aegean coastline of Turkey). Its capital was Sardis.
daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios. She uses magic to help Jason get the golden fleece (which is the reason why he and the Argonauts sail to Colchis) and punishes him when he betrays her.
a site of divine prophecy, or the prophecy itself. The most well-known oracle from the Greek world is that located at the shrine to Apollo at Delphi.
oral tradition
poetry composed without the use of writing, including Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. These poems were composed in performance, where myth was continually reworked and re-purposed to address present concerns.
relating to the whole of Greece (from the Greek word pan, ‘all’, and ‘Hellenic’, derived from Hellas, the Greek name for Greece).
the son of Priam, king of Troy. Also known as Alexander, his abduction of Helen leads to the Trojan War.
a Semitic people of the Mediterranean, known for their sailing prowess. Tyre (in modern-day Lebanon) was one of their strongholds.
at the time of Herodotus, a radical new kind of composition, without metre and with the aid of writing. Generally the choice of medium for the new scientific thinkers of the sixth and fifth century BCE.
the capital of the kingdom of Lydia.
c. 630–c. 560 BCE, Athenian statesman, constitutional lawmaker and poet, later credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy.
the main power in the area of mainland Greece known as the Peloponnese. Their culture was founded on military power. See also Lacedaemonia.
a type of coin used in Greek and non-Greek territories.
the Muse
a goddess, who is the source of inspiration, authority and knowledge for the poets of the oral epic tradition.
the father of gods and men. He overthrew his father Cronos to free his siblings and take control of the cosmos.