HERODOTUS was born at Halicarnassus, on the southwest coast of Asia
Minor, in the early part of the fifth century, B. C. Of his life we
know almost nothing, except that he spent much of it traveling, to
collect the material for his writings, and that he finally settled
down at Thurii, in southern Italy, where his great work was composed.
He died in 424 B. C.
The subject of the history of Herodotus is the struggle between the
Greeks and the barbarians, which he brings down to the battle of
Mycale in 479 B. C. The work, as we have it, is divided into nine
books, named after the nine Muses, but this division is probably due
to the Alexandrine grammarians. His information he gathered mainly
from oral sources, as he traveled through Asia Minor, down into Egypt,
round the Black Sea, and into various parts of Greece and the
neighboring countries. The chronological narrative halts from time to
time to give opportunity for descriptions of the country, the people,
and their customs and previous history; and the political account is
constantly varied by rare tales and wonders.
Among these descriptions of countries the most fascinating to the
modern, as it was to the ancient, reader is his account of the marvels
of the land of Egypt. From the priests at Memphis, Heliopolis, and the
Egyptian Thebes he learned what he reports of the size of the country,
the wonders of the Nile, the ceremonies of their religion, the
sacredness of their animals.
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