There was no Herodotus before Herodotus


“There was no Herodotus before Herodotus.” This little pearl, courtesy of the historical polymath Arnaldo Momigliano (1908–1987), belongs to the class of truly illuminating tautologies. When Herodotus, in the middle of the 5th century B.C.E., composed his “history” of the Persian wars, there was simply no one around to tell him how it was done. The result, as anyone who has lost the thread amid one of Herodotus’s labyrinthine geographic detours knows, is anything but a “history” in the familiar sense of the term — that is, scrupulous, meticulous, and humorless. The project is better understood as an “inquiry” — a more accurate translation of the Greek word anyhow — into the shape of the known world, almost as if such an inquiry were necessary to understand, as Herodotus put it in his preface to the work, “the reason why the Greeks and barbarians fought one another.”

more from the NY Sun here.