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Refuting Herodotus

"Herodotus of Halicarnassus hereby publishes the results of his enquiries, hoping to do two things: to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of the Greek and the non-Greek peoples; and more particularly, to show how the two races came into conflict."

With those words Herodotus proceeded to record his view on the history of the Greek peoples. Herodotus, long the only utilized source on history, has not been subjected to as much scrutiny as a historian should. His works are notably biased and undeniable incorrect in many instances. While his work should be valued, much of it is not true history. Herodotus based much of his work on hearsay and tales he had heard. These today, if analyzed logically, are obviously ridiculous myths which have no base in history.

Herodotus himself was born in circa 484BC and lived till about 425BC. Much of Herodotus' early work followed Egypt, Babylon, and the rise of Persia among his histories of Greece. It is quite obvious that he was not around to witness any of these events and thus most of his events come from local tales or other historian sources. Much of what he sites is thus pseudo-history which has been stretched beyond the truth. Others likely come from sources which were themselves biased.

One such is example is the tale of Kuroush and Croesus. Kuroush of Persia was persuing a campaign against Croesus of Lydia in Asia Minor. In short Kuroush won a decisive victory. When he captured Sardis he had set Croesus to be burned alive at his funeral. However, according to Herodotus, Apollo sent a massive storm, and Kuroush realized that the gods had offered Croesus divine protection and pardoned him. Kuroush is also reputed to have given Croesus an administrative post. Logically it is easy to find this story most likely false. Why would Kuroush, a Persian Zoroastrian who did not believe in gods, find cause in Apollo sending a storm? And even if a storm had happened, and Kuroush had set him free, why then did he give his enemy an administrative post? In this case Herodotus' account appears completely illogical. Luckily for committed historians, on this occasion there happens to be other sources. The Nabonidus Chronicles completely contradict this by claiming that in the year 547BC Kuroush defeated the Lydians and killed their king.

The story of Kambujiyahya is also smeared by Herodotus' bias. When Kambujiyahya conquered Egypt he attempted legitimize his rule and gaining acceptance among the people with mixed results. But Herodotus portrays a much different view on Kambujiyahya. It is obvious from the start that Herodotus' portrayal of Kambujiyahya having gone mad is far over the top. He claims Kambujiyahya slaughtered many Egyptians out of insanity, tortured and killed the Apis bull, attempted suicide, practiced incest, and regularly mocked Persian and Egyptian customs. Herodotus' sources, unsurprisingly, are the Egyptian priests whom Kambujiyahya had thrown out of power. Herodotus claims that Kambujiyahya stabbed the Apis bull for his pure enjoyment and to mock the Egyptians. Then Kambujiyahya forced the priests to torture the Apis bull and put to death any priests who disobeyed. He left the bull to bleed to death in pain. Many modern anthropologists dispute this. The burial of an Apis bull that died in 524BC of normal causes and was buried in traditional fashion appears to refute Herodotus yet again. Depictions show Kambujiyahya giving his respects to the Apis bull and praying to it.

The account of Zopyrus, a supposed general of Darayavaush, appears fictional. According to Herodotus, when Babylon rebelled, Darayavaush had a tough time regaining the city as it was walled. One of his loyal soldiers, Zopyrus, developed an ingenuitive plan. He mutilated his face severely and presented himself to the Babylonians as a Persian traitor who had been discarded by his own people. The Babylonians readily accepted him and put him in charge of their army. Zopyrus later opened up the walls for the Persians and allowed Darayavaush to take back the city. He was then, according to Herodotus appointed governor. If the reader has not already noted this story takes a marked similarity to the turn of events in Homer's epic. Odysseus likewise mutilates himself. In turn Zopyrus, among all the tablets naming every official in the Babylonian government, does not show up at all, let alone governor. This is another fictional account, dated before Herodotus' time.

Among other things Herodotus' accounts of the Persian wars is ludicrously biased and inaccurate. He reports that the Persians had forces amounted to 700,000 while the Greeks amounted to 100,000. Both figures are ridiculously high. Most historians believe that at best the Persians would have numbered nearer 70,000 and the Greek forces would have been far less than that. Herodotus also claims that at the battle of Marathon the Persian losses amounted to 6000 while the Greeks lost only 192. A certain stretch of the truth. Herodotus was young when the wars began, and based much of his factual data on Greek folklore. None of his accounts can be taken at full value.

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