Bodrum Castle

Herodotus of Ancient Bodrum

The Father of History
(484 BC – 425 BC)

Herodotus of Halicarnassus is known as the Father of History. He was the first historian who implemented systematic approach and testing of the data in the history of science.

His personal life is a mystery today. What we know about him is mainly based on what we found on his masterpiece The Histories and the Byzantium encyclopaedia Suda. The other ancient sources referring to his biography contain various inconsistent information which makes it difficult to put forward as a reliable biography. A detailed bio can be found at Wikipedia.

Bust of Herodotus at the castle entrance

Although there are sources providing a broader look to the civilizations in Asia Minor before The Histories, he was the pioneer who presents detailed information on history of Bodrum in particular.

Ionian nations had settled along the coasts of western Anatolia and founded Carian civilization. The six great Dorian cities, including Halicarnassus, in the Aegean region formed Dorian Hexapolis. Dorians ruled the area until Persian invasion in the fifth century BC.

Life of Herodotus

Herodotus was born in 484 BC in ancient Halicarnassus when the city was under the control of a satrap assigned by the Persian emperor. He was the son of Lyxes and Dryo and had two brothers, Theodorus and an ancient poet; Panyassis.

The satrap was a tyrant named Lygdamis. His cruel and unjust administration had resulted in an uprising against the authority. When historian’s family got involved in this riot, they all were exiled to Samos Island where he spent most of his childhood.

Since his adolescence, he had been always politically active. When he grew up, he did not forget how his family was exiled and eventually Lygdamis was overthrown with his contributions.

Herodotus and Thucydides outside Austrian Parliament Building
(Image credit: Wikipedia)

His insistence on involving in local politics made his life difficult. In Halicarnassus, being a side against other, shook his social life and forced him to travel. Soon, he realized that traveling is a great opportunity to see the world and learn about the cultures. As he visited new places, he began to take notes and organize them in a systematic way.

He was quite selective on his information sources. Aristocrats, priests and statesmen were in his radar. Even Pericles, one of the most influential Greek statesmen of the history, was his reference when it came to foreign affairs.

Herodotus was suffering from being a stateless person. By using his eminent network, he was trying to become a Greek citizen but rejected over and over again. Finally, he gave up and migrated to Thurium which was an Athenian colony.

Different sources refer different dates and places as to his death. Most probably, he died either in Thurium or in Macedonia somewhere around 430 BC and 425 BC.

Father of History in Today’s Bodrum

The Histories is his only known work. Today it is classified in 9 books. Local traditions, politics, geography, conflicts of various cultures around the Mediterranean and Asia are the main topics he covered.

It would be a good analogy to say the history of Bodrum began with Herodotus. His detailed notes on the administration, social relations, even fauna and flora gave us an important opportunity to understand ancient Halicarnassus. The modern history owes him a lot but Bodrum probably does much more.

Statues of Herodotus, Artemisia II and Mausolus

Besides all, he was a Bodrumian! It is exciting to imagine him leading a riot or giving a speech in Bodrum’s streets. Isn’t it?

Locals are aware of how important it is to have a fellow townsman like him. It is something to be proud of, but it is not enough. I believe he deserves more than a couple of statues in the streets and a few paragraphs on the travel guides. Sadly, this is what we have now.

Like the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, Herodotus should be introduced to larger audiences as an inseparable part of Bodrum’s cultural and historical background. Memories of these people are valuable assets which should not be forgotten.

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Akinsal

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