But the journeyings of Herodotus were not confined to Greece and its immediate neighborhood. From his own statements we learn that he had traveled through the Persian Empire to Babylon, and even to distant Susa and Ecbatana; had visited Egypt and gone up the Nile as far as Elephantine; had gone by sea to Tyre and to Libya; and had made a journey to the Black Sea, visiting the Crimea and the land of the Colchians.

He seems also to have traveled through the interior of Asia Minor and down the Syrian coast to the borders of Egypt.

The purpose of these travels presents an interesting problem. The simplest and most natural supposition would be that they were undertaken simply as a means of preparation for writing the History. But many other theories are possible. It has been thought that Herodotus was a merchant and that his journeys were primarily business undertakings. Against this it may be urged that the History shows no evidence of a commercial point of view, and that Herodotus speaks of merchants as he speaks of many other classes, with no suggestion of special interest. Again, it has been maintained that the journeys were made simply to collect evidence about foreign lands, with no direct reference to the History. Those who hold this theory believe that Herodotus was a professional reciter, like the rhapsodes who recited the Homeric poems, only that he took as his subject, not the great events of the heroic age, but the description of distant countries and their inhabitants—that he was, in short, a sort of ancient Stoddard or Burton Holmes. To such a belief the tradition that he read parts of his work at different places in Greece and the amount of space devoted to the aspect of foreign countries and the ways of foreign peoples in the History itself lend a certain amount of color. Finally, it is possible that some of the journeys had a political significance. Most of the countries which Herodotus visited were regions of which a knowledge was of great importance to the Greek statesmen of the fifth century, especially to Pericles, with his well-known scheme for founding an Athenian Empire, and it is pointed out that the large sum of ten talents (over $10,000) which Herodotus is said to have received from the Athenian Assembly can hardly have been paid simply for a series of readings, but must have been a reward for political services. All these theories suggest interesting possibilities, but none of them can be proved. Herodotus himself merely states that his History was written “that the deeds of men may not be forgotten, and that the great and wondrous works of Greek and barbarian may not lose their name.” In any case, the fact remains that he did at last put his materials into the form in which we have them and thus established his fame as the first writer of history.

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