Herodotus

Herodotus

Better known as the father of history, the Father of Travel Writing could well be a title bestowed upon Herodotus. Herodotus left us one only work, untitled, but familiar to many as simply The Histories. It is an account of the Eastern Mediterranean and the wars between the Persian Empire and the Greek cities that dotted the shores of the Aegean in the first half of the fifth century BCE. While most of the work prattles on about Greeks, Persians and others repeatedly killing one another, there are many absorbing accounts from Herodotus of sites and personages from many of the places he talks about. It is apparently evident that Herodotus managed to travel to these places; Egypt, Tyre, Babylon, Athens and he ended his days in Thurium in the south of Italy. He talked of other lands, lands he made no claim to have travelled to, India and West Africa.

The World of Herodotus

Herodotus did not intend to be a travel writer, he wanted to leave us a history, an account, an adventure of that time in the Eastern Mediterranean, but his resources for information were meagre. Libraries, such as they were, were filled with myths and legends on which Herodotus could not count upon for historical veracity, so he had to go to find out for himself. He followed those who knew the way, who had been there before, and when they did not know the way beyond he found someone else who did and followed them. At each stage he gathered information until at some point he reached the end of his road and had to rely upon the tales of those he encountered. This is where his account becomes somewhat less reliable and we hear of tales in India of gold digging ants, an ongoing myth that probably started with Herodotus.

Ancient fragment of Herodotus

Yes, we know of Herodotus as the Father of History, but it was his love of going places that he had not seen before, of meeting new people and of witnessing others with habits he was not familiar. This makes him the Father of Travel Writing.

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