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When I decided to put Herodotus online — being warmly encouraged to do so by my friend Jona Lendering (of Livius.org) — I knew full well there were already texts of him online, fourteen of them in fact; but most suffered from serious defects: Jona and I wanted something better.
If, as I believe, we succeeded, it's in large part due to Jona's work rather than mine, bringing to the project as he did the perspective of a professional historian in tune with recent developments in archaeology and historical scholarship: they find their way into this transcription mostly as an array of footnotes. In addition, 118 often splendid photographs of his illustrate and enliven the text of our historian, but they were carefully selected for relevance: with lingering regret I can tell you that a few beautiful photos had to be passed by because they would have been mere eye-candy, and there's plenty of that online as is.
My own part was mostly limited to the transcription and proofreading (any errors are thus mine, and corrections are always welcome), as well as linking to other useful Herodotus resources: chief among them, Rawlinson's monumental translation and commentary (1860), How and Wells' commentary (1928) — Rawlinson H & W both of these provided as running links in the left margin, as shown here ←; and, in the text and notes where relevant, articles
Cicero called Herodotus "the father of history", which is not incorrect. Herodotus was interested in the past, strove to be without bias, and tried to explain what had happened during the great conflict between the Greeks and the Persians. He shared this outlook with Homer, but there is a difference: Homer believed his poems were inspired by a Muse, while Herodotus presents his prose as the result of his investigations. To find out things, he traveled to Egypt, southern Italy, and Scythia. The idea that it is possible to investigate what once had happened was certainly something new.
Cicero's characterization of Herodotus is also a bit misleading. Herodotus is interested in much more than the past. He might as well be called the world's first geographer and ethnographer. With one exception (1.199), he does not pass judgment on foreign customs; he is proud to be Greek but he does not think foreign nations are inferior. We have to wait until Montaigne to find this attitude again.
Finally, it should be noted that Cicero's "father of history" might cause a misunderstanding: that Herodotus is a historian in our sense of the word. He isn't. Although he clearly distinguishes between what he has personally checked and what he has been told, he is capable of being very creative. One wonders for example how he got information about the last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, when all the Spartans were killed in action. The study of cuneiform sources has shown beyond reasonable doubt that Herodotus can never have visited Babylon; to be fair, it must be added that he never claims to have been there, although he does suggest it (e.g., by polemizing against "those who have never visited Babylonia", 1.193). Not everything Herodotus says is true, but he is certainly one of the greatest storytellers of all ages, and among the most accessible of all Greco-Roman authors.
As with most ancient authors, not that much is known of the man Herodotus himself, and the Loeb edition's introductory material, by the translator Alfred Denis Godley, is about as good as one can get; in a different style altogether, the Herodotus pages at Livius are equally valuable, and more accessible to some.
The entire work as we have it today is online in both the original Greek and English translation. "As we have it today", since there are indications that parts have gone missing, or maybe that Herodotus may have written other books that have not survived: see for example Diogenes Laertius' Thales, 22 and my note there.
As almost always, I retyped the text and the translation rather than scanning them, not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)
I ran a first check immediately after entering each book; then I proofread the text word by word, a check which is meant to be final. In the table of contents below, the sections are therefore shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; red backgrounds would mean that they still needed that final proofreading. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme. Should you spot an error, however . . . please do report it.
— and that last bit has been taken seriously by classical scholar Lydia Kirsopp Lake, whose help in the proofreading of both the English translation and the Greek text I'm happy to acknowledge here.
Loeb Classical Library, 4 volumes, Greek texts with facing English translation by A. D. Godley: Harvard University Press, 1920 thru 1925. The text is in the public domain: that of Volumes I‑III because the copyright has lapsed; that of Volume IV, pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, because the 1925 copyright expired and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been in 1952 or 1953. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)
The chapters (large numbers) mark local links, according to a consistent scheme; you can therefore link directly to any passage.
The page numbers below are those of the Greek text in the Loeb Classical Library edition;
the facing English page numbers are greater by one.
|History of Lydia and its kings; the story of Croesus.
|History of the Medes and Persians; the early life of Cyrus.
|Cyrus' dealings with the Greeks of Asia Minor.
|Cyrus' wars against the Assyrians and Massagetae; Babylonian civilization.
|The Nile valley and its inhabitants.
|History of the Egyptian kings.
|Cambyses: conquest of Egypt, failed expedition against Ethiopia, cruel acts.
|Polycrates of Samos: relations with Amasis of Egypt, war against his own banished subjects.
|Regime change in Persia: the death of Cambyses, the Magi usurp the throne of Persia and are themselves overthrown by conspirators; Darius becomes the new king.
|A list of Darius' provinces; various details about Arabia and India.
|The early reign of Darius, centered on Samos: Polycrates is killed and eventually Persia establishes a protectorate.
|Revolt of Babylon and its (second) capture.
|Legendary origin of the Scythians.
|Population of Scythia; the climate of the far north; the Hyperboreans; general relationship of Europe, Asia, and Libya.
|Scythia: its rivers, its customs.
|Darius crosses the Hellespont and the Danube.
|Scythia, its neighbor tribes, and the Amazons.
|The movements of the Persian and Scythian armies until Darius recrosses the Danube and returns to Asia.
|Libya: the history of Cyrene and a detailed description of the country.
|Persian conquest of Thrace; Persian embassy to Macedonia and its unhappy end.
|Persian conquests in Asia Minor; troubles at Miletus, Naxos, and Sparta. Description of the Royal Road from Ephesus to Susa.
|History of Athens: revolution against Pisistratus; Cleisthenes' reforms; wars.
|Greeks against Persians: Ionian revolt in which the Greeks burn Sardis; the Persians conquer Cyprus and western Asia Minor.
|Ionian revolts, continued; Persian naval victory at Lade, and their eventual occupation of Ionia.
|First Persian expedition against Greece, which failed; Spartan kingship and its travails; war between Athens and Aegina.
|Second Persian expedition against Greece; battle of Marathon, an Athenian victory; the Alcmaeonids at Athens.
|Third Persian expedition against Greece; Xerxes bridges the Hellespont and crosses it with a huge army.
|Description and catalogue of the Persian army, which progresses into Greece.
|Under Athenian leadership, most of the Greeks patch up their differences in response to the Persian threat.
|Naval encounters between Greeks and Persians; heavy losses to the Persian fleet, caused by a storm. Leonidas at Thermopylae.
|The Persian advance into Greece continues, with mixed success.
|The Athenians abandon Attica and Themistocles persuades most of the Greeks to concentrate at Salamis rather than fall back to defend the Isthmus of Corinth. Battle of Salamis: a resounding Greek victory.
|Xerxes retreats; his general Mardonius continues the war in Greece.
|Mardonius forced to retreat from Attica by the Greek victory at Plataea.
|The diviner Euenius; the Greek victory at Mycale; a story of Xerxes: adultery and cruelty.
|The Greeks besiege and take Sestus; the Persian Artaÿctes despoils a heroön and is eventually crucified. Coda: Cyrus's advice to prefer hardship to comfort.
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Site updated: 21 Feb 22