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Episode 116: The First Historian

 

“Herodotus, from Halicarnassus, here displays his enquiries, that human achievement may be spared the ravages of time, and that everything great and astounding, and all the glory of those exploits which served to display Greeks and barbarians alike to such effect, be kept alive–and additionally, and most importantly, to give the reason why they went to war.”

So begins the Histories, or the Enquiries, of Herodotus. He is rightly the father of history since he was the first to use the term. But even in that first sentence you can also see that he is a historian because he not only seeks to preserve, but to understand–and to make an argument about how things happened.

This is part of our continuing series on “Great Historians and Histories”. With me to discuss Herodotus is Jennifer Roberts, Professor of Classics at the City College of New York. An eminent historian, Jennifer Roberts has co-edited a translation of the Histories, and written Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press. She is also the author of The Plague of War, a new history of the Peloponnesian War, which will be the focus of a future conversation.