Herodotus, named the Father of History by Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, published an account of the Greco-Persian Wars titled The Histories around 425 B.C. He spent his life traveling between Persian territories such as Egypt, Syria, Babylon, and Macedonia, and collected myths, legends, oral histories and other information regrading the wars. Prior to this work, there had never been such a thorough study of the past and the cause-and-effect of events. Historians have been following in his footsteps ever since, trying to understand our past through research and analysis, not letting the great events of the world go unrecorded. However, Father of Western History may be a more appropriate title for Herodotus, as historians in Asia and Africa also have long traditions of historical inquiry. Furthermore, while he should be praised for his dedication to recording history, one must be wary of the often racist overtones in his writing.
The title of Herodotus’ book is particularly meaningful, as the word “history” means “inquiry,” or “knowledge from inquiry” in Greek. Everyone can gain understanding about themselves and the world they live in through the study of history, and as scholars of history, we proudly strive for the spirit of curiosity and dedication about our past that Herodotus had in his life. We are the Heirs of Herodotus.
More information about the history department at Middlebury College can be found here.