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What Herodotus the Halicarnassian has learnt by enquiry is here set forth: in order that so that the memory of the past may not be blotted out from among men by time, and that great and marvellous deeds done by Greeks and foreigners and especially the reason why they warred against each other may not lack renown.
-- The Histories, bk. 1, sect. 1
Croesus said: 'Well, my Athenian friend, I have heard a great deal about your wisdom, and how widely you have travelled in pursuit of knowledge. I cannot risk my desire to ask you a question: who is the happiest man you have ever seen?'
'My Lord,' replied Solon, '... you are very rich and rule a numerous people; but the question you asked me I will not answer, until I know that you have died happily... Until he is dead, keep the word "happy" in reserve. Till then, he is not happy, but only lucky.'
-- On Croesus, the king of Lydia, who was famous for his wealth, in: The Histories, bk. 1, sect. 30-32 (1954 translation)
In peace, children inter their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to inter their children.
-- The Histories, bk. 1, sect. 87 (Aubrey de Selincourt, tr.)
It has a solid central tower, one furlong square, with a second erected on top of it, and so on up to eight. All eight towers can be climbed by a spiral way running around the outside and about halfway up there are seats for those who make the ascent to rest on. On the summit of the topmost tower stands a great temple.
-- The Histories, bk. 1, sect. 181 (1910 translation). In this quote Herodotus describes the Temple of Bel in Babylon. In this the first book of his nine-book Histories on the history of the world as he knew it, he gives the history of Mesopotamia.
But it was only -- if I may so put it -- the day before yesterday that the Greeks came to know the origin and form of the various gods, and whether or not all of them had already existed; for Homer and Hesiod, the poets who composed our theogonies and described the gods for us, giving them all their appropriate titles, offices and powers, lived, as I believe, not more than four hundred years ago.
-- The Histories, bk. 2, sect. 53 (1954 translation). Here Herodotus, the "Father of History", makes an early distinction between myth and history and tries to establish a chronology.
The Samians are responsible for three of the greatest building and engineering feats in the Greek world: the first is a tunnel nearly a mile long, eight feet wide and eight feet hgh, driven clean through the base of a hill nine hundred feet in height. The whole length of it carries a second cutting thirty feet deep and three broad along which water from an abundant source is led through pipes into the town... Secondly there is the artificial harbour enclosed by a breakwater, which runs into twenty fathoms of water and has a total length of over a quarter of a mile; and lastly the island has the biggest of all known Greek temples.
-- The Histories, bk. 3, sect. 60 (1954 translation). The first feat mentioned here by Herodotus is the Tunnel of Eupalinos on the island of Samos in Greece. It was the second known tunnel in history which was constructed by digging from both ends. The Tunnel still exists and can be inspected today.
Before they left the city, the Athenian generals sent off a message to Sparta. The messenger was an Athenian named Philippides [Pheidippides]. a trained runner... He left Sparta the day after he left Athens. At once he delivered his message to the Spartan government. 'Men of Sparta, the Athenians ask you to help them, and not to stand by while the most ancient city of Greece is crushed and enslaved by a foreign invader.... The Spartans, while moved by the appeal, and willing to send help to Athens, were unable to send it promptly because they did not wish to break their law. It was the ninth day of the month, and they said they could not take the field until the moon was full. So they waited for the full moon, and meanwhile Hippias, the son of Pisistratus, guided the Persians to Marathon.
-- The Histories, bk. 6, sect. 105-6 (1954 translation). Here Herodotus recounts Philippides's famous dash from Athens to Sparta, a distance of over 150 miles). This event has given rise to the modern athletic event known as the marathon race.
In the Battle of Marathon some 6,400 Persians were killed; the losses of the Athenians were 192.
-- The Histories, bk. 6, sect. 117 (1954 translation)
How to deal with the situation Xerxes had no idea; but while he was still wondering what his next move should be, a man from Malis got himself admitted to his presence. This was Ephialtes and he had come, in hopes of a rich reward, to tell the king about the track which led over the hills to Thermopylae -- and the information he gave was to prove the death of the Greeks who held the pass.
-- The Histories, bk. 7, sect. 213 (1954 translation)
The dead were buried where they fell, and with the men who had been killed before those dismissed by Leonidas left the pass. Over them is this inscription, in honour of the whole force:
Four thousand here from Pelops' land
Against three million once did stand.
The Spartans have a special epitaph; it runs:
Tell them in Sparta, passer-by,
That here, obedient to their word, we lie.
-- Two epitaphs, c. 480 BC, by Simonides, quoted in: Herodotus, The Histories, bk. 7, sect. 228 (1954 translation)
Men's fortunes are on a wheel, which in its turning suffers not the same man to prosper for ever.
-- The Histories.
It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day's journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.
-- The Histories.
Ou phrontis Hippokleides
Hippocleides doesn't care.
-- The Histories, bk. 6, sect. 129
Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men.
-- The Histories, bk. 7, sect. 46
Again there is the Greek nation -- the common blood, the common language; the temples and religious ritual; the whole way of life we understand and share together.
-- The Histories, bk. 8, sect. 144 (1954 translation)
The most hateful torment of men is have knowledge of everything but power over nothing.
-- The Histories, bk. 9, sect. 16
Quotes about Herodotus
The Father of History
-- Epithet commonly given to Herodotus by Western historians over the centuries
Father of Lies
-- Norman Davies, Europe: A History (1996)
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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.
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