Sculpture bust of Greek historian Herodotus.


(c. 484 BC - c. 425 BC)

Known as the “Father of History” for his “inquiries” into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars of 490 and 480–479 bc, Herodotus boasted of his reliance on “actual fact” when writing his classic work The Histories, in which he describes gold-digging ants “bigger than a fox,” “Ethiopian hole-men” who “squeak like bats,” and Indian semen, which is “black like their own skins.” Herodotus, whose life spanned the better part of the fifth century bc, claimed to have traveled widely in Egypt, Babylonia, Byzantium, and Macedonia.

All Writing

Human happiness never remains long in the same place.

—Herodotus, c. 430 BC


Herodotus reports that after Cyrus the Great was warned by a Spartan herald not to tread further into Greek lands, the Persian king received a primer on Sparta, including an explanation of an agora, to inform his response. “I have never yet been afraid of any men,” he told the herald, “who have a set place in the middle of their city where they come together to cheat each other.”

The period of a [Persian] boy’s education is between the ages of five and twenty, and he is taught three things only: to ride, to use the bow, and to speak the truth.

—Herodotus, c. 440 BC

In peace, children inter their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to inter their children.

—Herodotus, 440 BC


Herodotus wrote that whenever an important decision was to be made by Persian men, they discussed the matter when drunk. The next day, the consensus they reached was reexamined when sober. If it was still amenable, the motion passed; if it wasn’t, it was scrapped. “Conversely,” Herodotus continued, “any decision they make when they are sober is reconsidered afterward when they are drunk.” 

The most hateful torment for men is to have knowledge of everything but power over nothing.

—Herodotus, c. 425 BC

Issues Contributed