The Ancient Library

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best modern critics are not quite free: one writer asserts, that Herodotus wrote to amuse his hearers rather than with the higher objects of an historian, such as Thucydides ; another says that he was inordinately partial towards his own countrymen, without possessing a proper knowledge of and re­gard for what had been accomplished by barbarians. To refute such errors, it is only necessary to read his work with an unbiassed mind: that his work is more amusing than those of other historians arises from the simple, unaffected, and childlike mode of narration, features which are peculiar more or less to all early historians. Herodotus further saw and acknowledged what was good and noble wherever it appeared ; for he nowhere shows any hatred of the Persians, nor of any among the Greeks: he praises and blames the one as well as the other, whenever, in his judgment, they deserve it. It would be vain indeed to deny that Herodotus was to a certain extent credulous, and related things with­out putting to himself the question as to whether they were possible at all or not; his political know­ledge, and his acquaintance with the laws of nature, were equally deficient; and owing to these defi­ciencies, he frequently does not rise above the rank of a mere story-teller, a title which Aristotle (De Animal. Gener. iii. 5) bestows upon him. But notwithstanding all this, it is evident that he had formed a high notion of the dignity of history; and in order to realise his idea, he exerted all his powers, and cheerfully went through more difficult and laborious preparations than any other historian either before or after him. The charge of his having flattered the Athenians was brought against Herodotus by some of the ancients, but is totally unfounded ; he only does justice to the Athenians by saying that they were the first who had courage and patriotism enough to face the barbarian invaders (vi. 112), and that thus they became the deliverers of all Greece; but he is very far from approving their conduct on every occasion; and throughout his account of the Persian war, he shows the most upright conduct and the sincerest love of truth, On the whole, in order to form a fair judgment of the historical value of the work of Herodotus, we must distinguish between those parts in which he speaks from his own observation, or gives the results of his own investigations, from those in which he merely repeats what he was told by priests, inter­preters, guides, and the like. In the latter case he undoubtedly was often deceived ; but he never in­trudes such reports as anything more than they really are; and under the influence of his natural good sense, he very frequently cautions his readers by some such remark as " I know this only from hearsay," or " I have been told so, but do not be­lieve it." The same caution should guide us in his account of the early history of the Greeks, on which he touches only in episodes, for he is gene­rally satisfied with some one tradition, without en­tering into any critical examination or comparison with other traditions, which he silently rejects. But wherever he speaks from his own observation, Herodotus is a real model of truthfulness and accuracy; and the more those countries of which he speaks have been explored by modern travellers, the more firmly has his authority been established. There is scarcely a traveller that goes to Egypt, the East, or Greece, that does not bring back a number of facts which place the accuracy of the accounts of Herodotus in the most brilliant light: many things



which used to be laughed at as impossible or para­doxical, are found to be strictly in accordance with truth.

The dialect in which Herodotus wrote is the Ionic, intermixed with epic or poetical expressions, and sometimes even with Attic and Doric forms. This peculiarity of the language called forth a number of lexicographical works of learned gram­marians, all of which are lost with the exception of a few remnants in the Homeric glosses (Ae|€is). The excellencies of his style do not consist in any artistic or melodious structure of his sentences, but In the antique and epic colouring, the transparent clearness, the lively flow of his narrative, the na­tural and unaffected gracefulness, and the occasional signs of carelessness. There is perhaps no work in the whole range of ancient literature which so closely resembles a familiar and homely oral narration than that of Herodotus. Its reader cannot help feeling as though he was listening to an old man who, from the inexhaustible stores of his knowledge and experience, tells his stories with that single-hearted simplicity and naivete, which are the marks and indications of a truthful spirit. " That which charms the readers of Herodotus," says Dahlmann, " is that childlike simplicity of heart which is ever the companion of an incorruptible love of truth, and that happy and winning style which cannot be attained by any art or pathetic excitement, and is found only where manners are true to nature ; for while other pleasing discourses of men roll along like torrents, and noisily hurry through their short existence, the silver stream of his words flows on without concern, sure of its immortal source, every where pure and transparent, whether it be shallow or deep ; and the fear of ridicule, which sways the whole world, affects not the sublime simplicity of his mind." We have already had occasion to re­mark that notwithstanding all the merits and ex­cellencies of Herodotus, there were in antiquity certain writers who attacked Herodotus on very serious points, both in regard to the form and the substance of his work. Besides Ctesias (Pers. i. 57.), Aelius Harpocration, Manetho, and one Pollio, are mentioned as authors of works against Herodotus; but all of them have perished with the exception of one bearing the name of Plutarch (ITepl ttjs 'HpoSorow KaKoijdelas), which is full of the most futile accusations of every kind. It is written in a mean and malignant spirit, and is pro­bably the work of some young rhetorician or sophist, who composed it as an exercise in. polemics or controversy.

Herodotus was first published in a Latin trans­lation by Laurentius Valla, Venice, 1474 ; and the first edition of the Greek original is that-of1 Aldus Manutius, Venice, 1502, fol. which was followed by two Basle editions, in 1541 and 1557* fol. The text is greatly corrected in the edition of H. Ste­phens (Paris, 1570 and 1592 fol.), which was fol­lowed by that of Jungermann, Frankfort, 1608, fol. (reprinted at Geneva in 1618, and at London in 1679, fol.). The edition of James Gronovius (Leiden, 1715) has a peculiar value, from his having made use of the excellent Medicean MS.; but it was greatly surpassed by the edition of P. Wes-seling and L. C. Valckenaer, Amsterdam, 1763, fol. Both the language and the matter are there treated with great care; and the learned apparatus of this edition, with the exception of the notes of Gronovius, was afterwards incorporated in the

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