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

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Conclusion: writing historically

In this course you have gained an understanding of the overall concept of Herodotus’ Histories, as well as of the particular structure and thematic content of the first episode, which is dedicated to Croesus. You have identified some of the ways in which Herodotus elicits trust for his account, and you have examined his repurposing of oracles in ways that encourage reflection on the act of reading historically. You have also learned several useful strategies for better navigating online information and fake news in particular, such as the importance: of identifying who’s speaking and thinking hard about what agenda they hold or promote; of reading closely for inconsistencies in accounts and for ambiguity in the evidence; and above all of acknowledging that there is complexity in the answers that we seek.

An abstract picture, painted with bright, vivid colours. To the right (as the viewer sees it) stands a bronzed figure with a horse's head, with a black covering wrapped around its midriff, its right hand bent behind its head, and its left arm down by its side. On the left is a green-blue coloured crocodile, the same length as the man-horse figure, with its head pointing down to the ground. Above the man-horse are two white blocks, one of which is clearly a Greek temple, with around 12 columns along both of its lengths and 6 more at the front, which is capped by a triangular pediment. There appears to be an Egyptian head with a red and white headpiece, along with various plants, branches, and roots.
Figure 32 Herodotus. Oil on canvas, by Charles Garabedian, 1995–1996. Orange County Museum of Art, California.

Now that you have developed some of the key skills required for close reading the Histories, you might consider reading more of Herodotus’ work in a translation of your choice. You may also wish to explore more ancient texts. If you would like to expand your skills and knowledge further, follow up some of the suggestions in the ‘Taking it further’ section.