Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria (modern day Bodrum, Turkey) and lived in the fifth century BC (c. 484–425 BC).
He has been called the “The Father of History” (firstly conferred by Cicero), and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent, and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative.
The Histories—his masterpiece and the only work he is known to have produced—is a record of his “inquiry” (or ἱστορία historía, a word that passed into Latin and acquired its modern meaning of “history”), being an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and including a wealth of geographical and ethnographical information.
Herodotus announced the size and scope of his work at the beginning of his Researches or Histories:
Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι, τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται, τὰ τε ἄλλα καὶ δι’ ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν ἀλλήλοισι.
Herodotus of Halicarnassus, his Researches are here set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of other peoples; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict.
His record of the achievements of others was an achievement in itself, though the extent of it has been debated. His place in history and his significance may be understood according to the traditions within which he worked. His work is the earliest Greek prose to have survived intact.
However, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a literary critic of Augustan Rome, listed seven predecessors of Herodotus, describing their works as simple, unadorned accounts of their own and other cities and people, Greek or foreign, including popular legends, sometimes melodramatic and naive, often charming—all traits that can be found in the work of Herodotus himself.
There are many that criticize Herodotus’s work, such as Cicero, Aristotle, Josephus and Plutarch. Yet, then they are others that say otherwise, such as Aubin, Heeren, Davidson, Diop, Poe, Welsby, Celenko, Volney, Montet, Bernal, Jackson, DuBois, and Strabo.
Herodotus’ claim to have visited Babylon is routinely attacked by those writing about the Hanging Gardens, for how could he have failed to have mentioned this World Wonder? From this he has been rescued by Dalley who postulates a site in Nineveh for the Garden.