The theme of the History of Herodotus is the struggle between the Persians and the Greeks, which, more than any other single event, determined the later history of Europe. There are many digressions, but the main subject is never lost sight of through all the nine books into which the work was divided by later grammarians. The earlier books trace the gradual growth of Persian power, the conquest of the Lydian Empire, of Babylon, and of Egypt,〖Harvard Classics, xxxiii, 7ff.〗 and the Persian expeditions to Scythia and Libya; with Book V we come to the Ionian revolt and the burning of Sardis—events which led up to the Persian attacks on Greece; Book VI describes the punishment of the Ionian cities and the first invasion, ending with the glorious victory of Marathon; and the remaining books record the great invasion of Xerxes.

Herodotus’s inspiration came largely, no doubt, from the time in which he lived. He was born early in the fifth century, and so was of the next generation to those who took part in the Persian struggle. He must have known and talked with many men who had fought at Marathon and Salamis. His own native city, Halicarnassus in Caria, was subject to Persia, so that he must early have learned to know and to fear the Persian power. Fate and inclination seem to have combined to make him a traveler. He was twice exiled from his native city, and was for many years “a man without a country, until at last he obtained citizenship in the town of Thurii in southern Italy, a sort of international colony which had been established by the Athenians in 443 B. C. on the site of the old city of Sybari. He certainly spent some time in Athens, where he enjoyed the friendship of Sophocles, and doubtless of others of that brilliant group of writers and artists whose works have made the “Age of Pericles”〖H. C., xii, 35ff.〗 a synonym for the “great age” in Greek literature and art. There are traditions that he gave public readings at Athens, Olympia, Corinth, and Thebes; and he speaks with first-hand knowledge of many other places in Greece.

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