Herodotus Comparisons

This page allows you to compare five versions of The Histories side by side.


For more information about this book, view our Herodotus Page. Enjoy!

Landmark (2007)  

Everyman's Library (1910)  

Waterfield (1998)  

De Selincourt  

Grene (1988)  

Book 1- Introduction
Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time. May that great and wonderful deeds--some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians--not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.

Persian authorities of the past claim that the Phoenicians were responsible for the dispute. This is because, after they had come to and settled the land which they still inhabit from what is now called the Erythraen Sea, they at once undertook long sea voyages and brought back cargo from Egypt, Assyria, and elsewhere, but more to the point, they came to Argos.
AT this time in the land we now call Hellas, Argos surpassed other places in thing, and when the Phoenicians reached Argos they set out their cargo for sale. On the fifth or sixth day after their arrival, when they had sold almost everything, many women came down to the sea, in particular, the king's daughter. Her name, according to what the Hellenes also say, was Io daughter of Inachos. The women were standing by the stern of the ship intent upon their purchases when the phoenicians, inciting each other, rushed upon them.
These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicanarssus, which he publishes, in the hope of thereby preserving from decay the rememeberance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians from loosing their due meed of glory; and withal to put on record what were their grounds of feud.
According to the Persians best informed in history, the Phoenicians began the quarrel. This people, who had  formerly dwelt on the shores of the Erythraen Sea, having migrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, frieghting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria. They landed at many places on the coast, and among the rest at Argos, which was then pre-eminent above all the states included now under the commmon name of Hellas. Here they exposed their merchandise, and traded with the natives for five or six days; at the end of which time, when almost everything was sold, there came down to the beach a number of women, and among them the daughter of the king, who was, they say, agreeing in this with the Greeks, Io, the child of Inachus. The women were standing by the stern of the ship intent upon their purchases, when the Phoenicians, with a great shout, rushed upon them.
Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks.
According to the learned Persians, it was the Phoenicians who caused the conflict. Originally, these people came to our sea from the Red Sea, as it is known. No sooner had they settled in the land they still inhabit than they turned to overseas travel. They used to take Egyptian and Assyrian goods to various places, including Argos, which was at that time the most important state, in a all respects, in thhe country which is now called Greece. Once, then, the Phoenicians came to Argos and began to dispose of their cargo. Five or six days after they had arrived, when they had sold almost everything, a number of women came down to the shore, including the king's daughter, whose name (as the Greeks agree too) was Io, the daughter of Inachus. These women were standing around the stern of the ship, buying any items which particularly caught their fancy, when the Phoenicians gave the word and suddenly charged at them.
Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds--some displayed by the Greeks, some by barbarians -- may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two peoples fought with each other.
Learned Persians put the responsibility for the quarrel on the Phoenicians. These people came originally from the so-called Red Sea; and as soon as they had penetrated to the Mediteranean and settled in the country where they are today, the took to making long trading voyages. Loaded with Egyptian and Assyrian goods, they called at various places along the coast, including Argos, in those days the most important place in the land now called Hellas.
Here in Argos they displayed their wares, and five or six days later when they were nearly sold old, a number of women came down to the beach to see the fair. Amongst these was the king's daughter, whom Greek and Persian writers agree in calling Io, daughter of Inachus. They women were standing about near the vessel's stern, buying what they fancied, when suddenly the Phoenician sailors passed the word along and made a rush at them.
I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought one another. 
The chroniclers among the Persians say that it was the Phoenicians who were the cause of the falling-out; for they came from what is called the Red Sea to our sea, and, having settled in the country in which they now live, they at once set about long voyages; and carrying Egyptian and Assyrian freights, they put into other lands, and among them Argos. At this time Argos excelled all others of what is now called Hellas. To Argos, then, came the Phoenicians, and there they put their cargo on display. On the fifth or sixth day after their arrival, when almost all their goods had been sold off, there came down to the sea, with many other women, the king's daughter; her name -- it is the same in both the Greek and Perisan accounts -- was Io, and she was the daughter of Inachus. The women all stood by the stern of the ship and were buying from among the wares whatever they had most set their hearts on; as they did so, the Phoenicians let out a great shout and made for them.

Book 4- Cannabis In Scythia
Now there is a plant called cannabis, which grows in their land which most resembles flax, except that cannabis is far superior in its thickness and size. It grows both wild and cultivated, and from it the Thracians make clothing very much like garments of linen. Unless some one had real expertise, he would think they were made of linen and not cannabis; and if he had never seen cannabis at all, he would certainly think the cloth was linen.
Well, the Scythians take the seeds of this cannabis, creep beneath the wool covering the stakes, and throw the seeds onto the blazing-hot stones within. When the sees hit the stones, they produce smoke and give off a vapor such as no steam bath in Hellas could surpass. The Scythians howl, awed and elated by the vapor. This takes the place of a bath for them, since they do not use any water at all the wash their bodies.
Hemp grows in Scythia: it is very like flax; only that it is a much coarser and taller plant: some grows wild about the country, some is produced by cultivation. The Thracians make garments of it which closely resemble linen; so much so, indeed, that if a person has never seen hemp he is sure to think they are linen, and if he has, unless he is very experienced in such matters, he will not know of which material they are.
The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy, and this vapour serves them instead of a waterbath; for they never by any chance wash their bodies with water.
Now, there is a plant growing in their country called cannabis, which closely resembles flax, except that cannabis is thicker-stemmed and taller. In Scythia, in fact, it is far taller. It grows wild, but is also cultivated, and the Thracians use it, as well as flax, for making clothes. These clothes are so similar to ones made out of flax that it would take a real expert to tell the difference between the two materials. Anyone unfamiliar with cannabis would suppose that the clothes were linen.
Anyway, the Scythians take cannabis seeds, crawl in under the felt blankets, and throw the seeds on to the glowing stones. The seeds then emit dense smoke and fumes, much more than any vapour-bath in Greece. The Scythians shriek with delight at the fumes. This is their equivalent of a bath, since they never wash their bodies with water.
Now hemp grows in Scythia, a plant resembling flax, but much coarser and taller. It grows wild as wells as under cultivation, and the Thracians make clothes from it very life linen ones- indeed, one must have much experience in these matters to be able to distinguish between the two, and anybody who has never seen a piece of cloth made from hemp, will suppose it to be of linen. They take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on to the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much that they howl with pleasure. This is their substitute for an ordinary bath in water, which they never use.
Now, they have hemp growing in that country that is very like flax, except that it is thicker and taller. This plant grows both wild and under cultivation, and from it the Thracians make garments very like linen. Unless someone is very expert, he could not tell the garment made of linen from the hempen one. Someone who has never yet seen hemp would certainly judge the garment to be linen.
The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the mats, throw the seed onto the stones as they glow with heat. The seed so cast on the stones give off smoke and a vapor; no Greek steam bath could be stronger. The Scythians in their delight at the steam bath howl loudly. This indeed serves them instead of a bath, as they never let water near their bodies at all.
Book 5- The Trausians
Of these, the Getai believe in immortality, as I have already described. The Trausians do everything in the same way as the rest of the Thracians, except for the way they react to birth and death. When a child is born to them, his relatives sit around him and grieve over all the evils he will have to endure later, recounting all things that humans must suffer. But when someone dies, they have fun and take pleasure in burying him in the ground, reciting over him all the evils he has escaped and how he is now in a state of complete bliss.
The customs of those who live above the Krestonians are as follows. Each man has many wives, and whenever a man dies, a great contest with fierce rivalry is held among his wives and their families concerning which of them was the wife whom he loved the most. The woman who is judged most worthy of this honor is eulogized by both men and the women, after which her closest relative cuts her throat over the grave and she is buried with her husband. The other wives consider rejection a terrible misfortune and the greatest possible disgrace.
Now the manners and the customs of the Getae, who believe in their immortality, I have already spoken of. The Trausi in all else resemble the other Thracians, but have customs at births and deaths which I will now describe. When a child is born all its kindred sit round about it in a circle and weep for the woes it will have to undergoe now that it is come into the world, making mention of every ill that falls to the lot of humankind; when, on the other hand, a man has died, they bury him with laughter and rejoicings, and say that now he is free from a host of sufferings, and enjoys the completest happiness.
The Thracians who live about the Crestonaens observe the following customs. Each man among them has several wives; and no sooner does a man die than a sharp contest ensues among the wives upon the question, which of them the husband loved most tenderly; the friends of each eagerly plead on her behalf, and she to whom the honour is adjudged, after receiving the praises both of men and women, is slain over the grave by the hand of her next of kin, and then buried with her husband. The others are sorely grieved, for nothing is considered such a disgrace.
Of these, I have already described the customs of the Getae, with their belief in their own immortality. Trausian customs are basically identical with those found elsewhere in Thrace, except for what they do at birth and death. Whenever a baby is born, its relatives gather around and grieve for the troubles it is going to have to endure now that it has been born, and they recount all the sufferings of human life. When anyone dies, however, they bury him in high spirits and with jubilation, on the grounds that he has been released from so many ills and is now in a perfectly happy state.
The tribes to the north of Crestonia practise polygyny, and when a man dies, his wives are subjected to searching tests (which their friends take very seriously), to see which of them was loved the most by the husband. When a decision has been reached and one of the wives has been singled out for this distinction, her praises are sung by men and women alike, and then her throat is slit over the grave by her nearest male relative, and she is buried along with her husband. All the other wives consider it a huge misfortune, because there is nothing more disgraceful for them than not being chosen.
The customs of the Getae, who believe themseleves immortal, I have already described; the Trausi follow the normal practices of the Thracians in general, except in one particular-- their behavior, namely, on the occasion of a birth or a death. When a baby is born the family sits round and mourns at the thought of the sufferings the infant must endure now that it has entered the world, and goes through the whole catalogue of human sorrows; but when somebody dies, they bury him in merriment and rejoicing, and point out how happy he now is and how many miseries he has at last escaped.
With the Thracians who live beyond Creston, it is customary for a man to have a number of wives; and when a husband dies, his wives enter into keen competition, in which his friends play a vigorous part on one side or the other, to decide which of them was most loved. The one on whom the honour of the verdict falls is first praised by both men and women, and then slaughtered over the grave by her next of kin and buried by her husband's side. For the other wives, not to be chosen is the worst possible disgrace, and they grieve accordingly.
I have already spoken of what the "immortalizing" Getae do. The Trausi do other matters very much like the rest of the Thracians, but they have special practices in regard to birth and death The kinsfolk surround the newly born, and lament for him, for all the ill he must endure, once he has now been born, and they set forth all the sufferings of men. But the dead they hide in the grave with joy and delight and say over him what evils he is now quit of and how he is now in perfect happiness.
Those of the Thracians who live above the Crestonaeans do the following: each man of them has many wives, and when a man among them dies, there is a great judging of the wives, and much earnestness among his friends in this respect: as to which he had loved the most. She that is so adjusted to be best loved, and is so honored, is greatly praised by men and women and then slaughtered at his tomb by her closest kinsfolk, and, being so slaughtered she is buried with her man. The other wives feel this as a a great calamity, for it is for them the greatest of reproaches.
Book 7- Mardonios and Xerxes
Now at first, Xerxes had no desire at all to march on Hellas, but he did muster an army against Egypt. Mardonios son of Gobryas, however--who was present at court, and who as the son of Darius' sister was the first cousin to Xerxes and had more influence with the King than all other Persians--persistently made speeches to Xerxes like this: "My lord, it is unreasonable that the Athenians have inflicted great evils upon the Persians but have paid no penalty for it. Since you have enough on your hands right now, by all means, do subdue and punish Egypt first for its outragious offense, but then you must march against Athens in order to gain a good reputation among men and to ensure that others will beware of making war on your land afterward."  That was how Mardonios argued for revenge, and he would add that Europe was a very beautiful place; that it produced all sorts of cultivated trees, was unsurpassed in fertillty, and was worthy of being possessed by the King alone among mortals.
Now Xerxes, on first mounting the throne, was coldly disposed towards the Grecian war, and made it his business to collect an army against Egypt. But Mardonius, the son of Gobryas, who was at the court, and had more influence with him than any of the other Persians, being his own cousin, the child of a sister of Darius, plied him with discoursese like the following--
"Master, it is not fitting that they of Athens escape scot-free, after doing the Persians such great injury. Complete the work which thou hast now in hand, and then, when the pride of Egypt is brought low, lead an army against Athens. So shalt though thyself have a good report among men, and others shall fear hereafter to attack they country."
Thus far it was of vengeance that he spoke; but sometimes he would vary the theme, and observe by the way, "that Europe was a wondrous beautiful region, rich in all kinds of cultivated trees, and the soil excellent: no one, save the king, was worth to own such a land."
Now, Xerxes was at first rather reluctant to make war on Greece, although he carried on raising an army to attack Egypt. However, Mardonius the son of Gobryas was at court, and there was no one in Persia who had more influence with Xerxes. Mardonius was his cousin, the son of Darius' sister, and he argued as follows: "Master, it's wrong for the Athenians to go unpunished for all the harm they've done Persia. It's true that for the time being you had better continue with the business you have undertaken, but once you've curbed the arrogance of Egypt, you ought to march against Greece. It will enhance your reputation, and also make people think twice in the future before attacking your territory.' This was his argument for retaliation, but he also invariably added the rider that Europe was a particularly beautiful place, where every kind of cultivated tree grew and the soil was excellent; it was a place, he said, which no one but the king of Persia ought to own.
Xerxes at first was not at all interested in invading Greece but began his reign by building up an army for a campaign in Egypt. But Mardonius--the son of Gobyras and Darius' sister and thus cousin to the king--who was present in court and had more influence with Xerxes than anyone else in the country, used constantly to talk to him on the subject. 'Master,' he would say, 'the Athenians have done us great injury, and it is only right that they should be punished for their crimes. By all means finish the task you already have in hand; but when you have tamed the arrogance of Egypt, then lead an army against Athens. Do that, and your name will be held in honour all over the world, and people will think twice in future before they invade your country.' And to the argument for revenge he would add that Europe was a very beautiful place; it produced every kind of garden tree; the land there was everything that land should be-- it was, in short, too good for any mortal except the Persian king.
In the beginning Xerxes was in no way eager to make war upon Greece but was for collecting his army against Egypt. But Mardonius, son of Gobryas, who was on the spot and had the greatest power with him -- he was Xerxes' cousin, the son of Darius' sister -- clung to the argument that I will describe, and said: "Master, it is not fit that the Athenians, who have done so many evils to the Persians, should not pay penalty for what they have done. Nonetheless, you have matter in your hands for now; subdue Egypt, which has insulted you, and then make war upon Athens, that good fame from the lips of men may possess you and that hereafter men may take heed how they war against your country." This was his argument for vengeance; but he always made this addition, that Europe was a very fair land and bore every sort of cultivated tree, was high in its fertility, and it was the Great King, alone of mortals, who deserved to own it.
Book 8- Mys From Europus
According to the Thebans, an event took place at this time which to me is most amazing. As Mys of Europos was visiting all of the oracles, he came also to the precinct of Ptoian Apollo, the sanctuary called the Ptoios, which belongs to the Thebans and, being situated near a mountain and next to the city of Akraiphiai, overlooks Lake Copais. So when this man called Mys came to this sanctuary, three men who had been selected by the state to write down the expected prophecy accompanied him, but all of a sudden, the prophet began to speak in a barbarian tongue. The Thebans accompanying Mys were struck with wonder at hearing barbarian speech instead of Greek, and had no idea how to deal with it. Mys, however, snatched away from the tablet they had brought along and wrote down what it had said, he left and returned to Thessaly.
One thing which the Thebans declare to have happened at this time is to me very surprising. Mys, the Europian, they say, after he had gone about to all the oracles, came at last to the sacred precinct of Apollo Ptous. The place itself bears the name of Ptoum; it is in the country of the Thebans, and is situate on the mountain side overlooking Lake Copais, only a very little way from the town called Acraephia. Here Mys arrived, and entered the temple, followed by three Theban citizens -- picked men the god might give. No sooner was he entered than the prophet delivered him an oracle, but in a foreign tongue; so that his Theban attendants were astonished, hearing a strange language when they expected Greek, and did not know what to do. Mys, however, the Europian, snatched from their hands the tablet which they had brought with them, and wrote down what the prophet uttered. The reply, he told them, was in the Carian diaclect. After this, Mys departed and returned to Thessaly.
Anyway, back to the story of Mys, the man from Europus. According to the Thebans, something happened which I find very odd. Among all the various oracular sites he visited here and there was the precint of Apollo of Ptous. This shrine, called the Ptoum, lies within Theban-controlled territory, on a hill overlooking Lake Copais, very close to the town of Acraephia. On his visit to the Ptoum the man called Mys was accompanied by three Thebans, who had been delegated by the Theban authorities to write down the oracle's statement. Suddenly, the oracles's prophet began to speak in a foreign language! The Thebans who had come with Mys were astonished to hear a foreign language instead of Greek, and they did not know what to make of it, but Mys of Europus snatched the writing-tablet they had brought from their hands and began to write down on it the prophet's words, explaining that he was speaking Carian. Then Mys went back to Thessaly
One thing which the Thebans say happened at this time seems t o me very remarkable: Mys, the man from Europus, visited during his tour of the oracles the precint of Apollo Ptoius; the temple, which is called Ptoium, belongs to Thebes and is situated very near Acraephia, on the hill overlooking Lake Copais. Mys entered the shrine accompanied by three men from Thebes, who had been officially appointed to take down whatever answer the god might give. The prophet through whom the god spoke at once delivered his oracles -- in a foreign language. The three Thebans were astonished at hearing a strange tongue instead of Greek,  and did not know what to do about it; Mys, however, snatched the tablet they had brought to write the oracle on, and, declaring that the god's response had been delivered in Carian, wrote it down himself and hurried back to Thessaly.
Then a very extraordinary wonder happened, according to the Thebans. This Mys, man or Eruopus, having wandered up and down among all the oracles, came to the sanctuary of Ptoan Apollo. This is the sanctuary called Ptoum and is the possession of the Thebans. It lies above Lake Copais on a mountain, near to the town Acraephia. When the man called Mys came into this shrine, there followed him three men of the city, selected by the commonalty to write down what was prophesied; and suddenly the prophet spoke in a foreign language. Those of the Thebans who followed Mys were in astonishment when they heard the foreign tongue instead of Greek and they did not know how to handle their present difficulty. But Mys of Europus snatched from them the tablet they carried that he might write on it what the prophet said. He said that what was spoken was Carian, and he wrote it down and made off to Thessaly with it.