The Ancient Library

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further derived assistance from the Arimaspeia, an epic poem of Axisteas, and from the works of the logographers who had preceded hinij such as Hecataeus, though he worked with perfect in­dependence of them, and occasionally corrected mistakes which they had committed ; but his main sources, after all, were his own investigations and observations.

The object of the work of Herodotus is to give an account of the struggles between the Greeks and Persians, from which the former, with the aid of the gods, came forth victorious. The subject therefore is a truly national one, but the discussion of it, especially in the early part, led the author into various digressions and episodes, as he was sometimes obliged to trace to distant times the causes of the events he had to relate, or to give a history or description of a nation or country, with which, according to his view, the reader ought to be made familiar; and having once launched out into such a digression, he usually cannot resist the temptation of telling the whole tale, so that most of his episodes form each an interesting and complete whole by itself. He traces the enmity between Europe and Asia to the mythical times. But he rapidly passes over the mythical ages, to come to Croesus, king of Lydia, who was known to have committed acts of hostility against the Greeks. This induces him to give a full history of Croesus and the kingdom of Lydia. The conquest of Lydia by the Persians under Cyrus then leads him to relate the rise of the Persian monarchy, and the subjugation of Asia Minor and Babylon. The na­tions which are mentioned in the course of this nar­rative are again discussed more or less minutely. The history of Cambyses and his expedition into Egypt induce him to enter into the detail of Egyp­tian history. The expedition of Dareius against the Scythians causes him to speak of Scythia and the north of Europe. The kingdom of Persia now extended from Scythia to Cyrene, and an army being called in by the Cyrenaeans against the Persians, Herodotus proceeds to give an account of Cyrene and Libya. In the meantime the revolt of the lonians breaks out, which eventually brings the contest be­tween Persia and Greece to an end. An account of this insurrection and of the rise of Athens after the expulsion of the Peisistratidae, is followed by what properly constitutes the principal part of the work, and the history of the Persian war now runs in a regular channel until the taking of Sestos. In this manner alone it was possible for Herodotus to give a record of the vast treasures of information which he had collected in the course of many years. But these digressions and episodes do not impair the plan and unity of the work, for one thread, as it were, runs through the whole, and the episodes are only like branches that issue from one and the same tree: each has its peculiar charms and beauties, and is yet manifestly no more than a part of one great whole. The whole structure of the work thus bears a strong resemblance to a grand epic poem. We remarked above that the work of Herodotus has an abrupt termination, and is probably incomplete: this opinion is strengthened on the one hand by the fact, that in one place the author promises to give the particulars of an occur­rence in another part of his work, though the pro­mise is nowhere fulfilled (vii. 213) ; and, on the other, by the story that a favourite of the historian, of the name of Plesirrhous, who inherited all his


property, also edited the work after the author's death. (Ptolem. Heph. ap. Phot. Bibl. Cod. 190.) The division of the work into nine books, each bearing the name of a muse, was probably made by some grammarian, for there is no indication in the whole work of the division having been made by the author himself.

There are two passages (i. 106, 184) in which Herodotus promises to write a history of Assyria, which was either to form a part of his great work, or to be an independent treatise by itself. Whether he ever carried his plan into effect is a question of considerable doubt; no ancient writer mentions such a work ; but Aristotle, in his His­tory of Animals (viii. 20), not only alludes to it, but seems to have read it, for he mentions the ac­count of the siege of Nineveh, which is the very thing that Herodotus (i. 184) promises to treat of in his Assyrian history. It is true that in most MSS. of Aristotle we there read Hesiod instead of Herodotus, but the context seems to require Hero­dotus. The life of Homer in the Ionic dialect, which was formerly attributed to Herodotus, and is printed at the end of several editions of his work, is now universally acknowledged to be a production of a later date, though it was undoubtedly written at a comparatively early period, and contains some valuable information.

It now remains to add a few remarks on the character of the work of Herodotus, its importance as an historical authority, and its style and lan­ guage. The whole work is pervaded by a pro­ foundly religious idea, which distinguishes Hero­ dotus from all the other Greek historians. This idea is the strong belief in a divine power existing apart and independent of man and nature, which assigns to every being its sphere. This sphere no one is allowed to transgress without disturbing the order which has existed, from the beginning, in the moral world no less than in the physical; and by disturbing this order man brings about his own de­ struction. This divine power is, in the opinion of Herodotus, the cause of all external events, although he does not deny the free activity of man, or esta­ blish a blind law of fate or necessity. The divine power with him is rather the manifestation of eternal justice, which keeps all things in a proper equilibrium, assigns to each being its path, and keeps it within its bounds. Where it punishes overweaning haughtiness and insolence, it assumes the character of the divine Nemesis, and nowhere in history had Nemesis overtaken and chastised the offender more obviously than in the contest be­ tween Greece and Asia. When Herodotus speaks of the envy of the gods, as he often does, we must understand this divine Nemesis, who appears sooner or later to pursue or destroy him whoj in frivolous insolence and conceit, raises himself above his proper sphere. Herodotus everywhere shows the most profound reverence for everything which he conceives as divine, and rarely ventures to ex­ press an opinion on what he considers a sacred or religious mystery, though now and then he cannot refrain from expressing a doubt in regard to the correctness of the popular belief of his countrymen, generally owing to the influence which'the Egyp­ tian priests had exercised on his mind ; but in general his good sense and sagacity were too strong to allow him to be misled by vulgar notions and errors. . :

There are certain prejudices of which some t>f the

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