National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Herodotus-Geographer and Historian HERODOTUS is the first Greek ge ographer and historian whose works have survived. Born in Hali carnassus (Bodrum), a Greek colony in Asia Minor, about 484 B.c., he is often called the Father of History. Without him we should lack the knowledge of a highly important part of it. He was the greatest traveler of his day. He visited Egypt, and went as far up the Nile as Elephantine. He went westward to Cyrene, and east to Babylon and as far as Susa, the capital of Persia. Northward his wanderings took him to the Greek cities on the shores of the Black Sea. About 447 B.C. he came to Athens, where he settled down to write of his travels. The Athenians enjoyed his public readings and voted him a good sum of money. He gives us a his tory of the entire ancient eastern Mediterranean from earliest times to the close of the Persian Wars. Natu rally, the record is far from complete or accurate, in many cases, since he depended for his information on many sources which it was impossible to verify. He heard and recorded many "tall stories" about some of the more remote peoples of whom he wrote. However, he was not so gullible as is sometimes thought, for he says, "I am under obligation to tell what is reported, but I am not obliged to believe it; and let this hold for every narrative in this history." When Herodotus depends on his own observation, he is fairly reliable, and although his patriotism leads him to exaggerate the numbers of the Per sian army, and probably to minimize the numbers and the losses of the Greeks who withstood them, he gives us a sound basis for historical re search in those times. In Athens during the great period of Pericles' leadership, he visited the Acropolis many times while the work on the Parthenon was going on. He tells of a four-horse chariot group of bronze that was set up on the Acrop olis to commemorate a victory of the Athenians over the Boeotians and the people of Chalcis about sixty years before (506 B.C.). The Athenians, by the sound tacti cal maneuver of defeating one enemy before the other's ally could come to their aid, took prisoner some 700 of each. Later the prisoners were ran somed, but the chains in which they had been bound were hung on a wall on the Acropolis and the chariot group was made from a tithe of the ransom money. On the base was inscribed: Athens' bold sons, what time in glorious fight They quelled Boeotian and Chalcid ian might, In chains and darkness did its pride enslave; As ransom's tithe these steeds to Pallas gave. The dedication was made before the Persians had sacked the Acropolis (480 B.C.); hence the group appears in an earlier picture. (Page 311.) A small surviving portion of the inscription gives us the forms of the letters. For the text we are depend ent on Herodotus, who is seen here, on a rainy day in autumn, studying the inscription which he is to record later in his history. The site chosen for this group is at the foot of a terrace wall that ran across a part of the Acropolis west of the site of the Old Temple of Athena. Near by is the base of the bronze statue of Athena Promachos.