History 371: "Inventing History"

Spring, 2001


Inventing History: Herodotus and the Beginnings of Historical Writing.

Instructor: Dennis G. Glew

Comenius 308

Voice: 610/861-1301

E-mail: medgg01@moravian.edu

WWW: http://home.moravian.edu/users/hist/medgg01/

Office hours: MW 1-3, TR 11-12

Objective: Herodotus of Halicarnassus (b. ca. 485 BCE), the "father of History" (according to Cicero), wrote the earliest extant work of history in the Western tradition and, at the time, a popular piece of entertainment. Herodotus was ethnographer, anthropologist, explorer, and brilliant storyteller who, in effect, invented history. This seminar will read Herodotus' Histories and investigate topics related to it, including Herodotus' conception of historia, stories and story telling in his work, and his attitude to "foreigners," women, and the gods. We will pay particular attention to Herodotus' account of the creation of democracy at Athens, and the factors that contributed to the Greeks' triumph over the Persians. As part of this, we will survey the main, recent literature on Herodotus in English.


  1. Each meeting will have a set of readings in ancient sources (chiefly Herodotus, but also Homer and Aeschylus) and in secondary works. Students will be asked present introductions to the secondary readings in which they identify and review important points in the paper and assess the merits of its arguments. Introductions should be 1-3 pages (typewritten) in length, and will be collected after the meeting. You can expect to prepare 2 of these assignments during the term.
  2. Arrange a time each week when we can meet individually, outside class. I hope to see each student at least three times this term.
  3. For the fourth meeting of the term, prepare a reaction paper 1-3 pages (typewritten) in length in which you analyze an episode in the first books of Herodotus that particularly interests you. Briefly summarize the story, point out elements in it that you find striking, and discuss what makes it attractive to you.
  4. Before the seventh meeting of the term, send me an e-mail in which you propose a topic for your research project. In two or three paragraphs, explain what you intend to do in your paper and what resources you will use. After I have considered the topic, I will meet with you to discuss it.
  5. For the next-to-last class meeting, prepare a research paper, 20-25 pages in length, on a topic related to our work this term. (See separate document on research paper format.)
  6. In our last meeting, present a 1-2 summary of the most interesting points in your research paper.


  1. 1/18 Introduction
  2. 1/25 Herodotus Bk. 1; Homer, Iliad, Bk. 1 (Available on the Web.)
  3. 2/1 Herodotus Bk. 2
  4. 2/8 Herodotus Bk. 3. Reaction papers due.
  5. 2/15 Herodotus Bk. 4
  6. 2/22 Herodotus Bk. 5
  7. 3/1 Herodotus Bk. 6. Deadline for research topic proposals.
  8. 3/15 Herodotus Bks. 7 & 8 Aeschylus, The Persians.(Available on the Web.)
  9. 3/22 Herodotus Bk. 9
  10. 3/29
  11. 4/5
  12. 4/12
  13. 4/19 Research papers due
  14. 4/26 Presentation of research summaries