About

Herodotus

Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum in western Turkey) at some point during the early decades of the fifth century BCE. What we know of his life is largely derived from the evidence of his one work, the Histories, which refer to his travels across the Greek world, Egypt, the Levant, and the Black Sea. How long he lived, and the precise period in which he wrote and published the Histories, is disputed, but it is clear that he was working under the shadow of the Atheno-Peloponnesian wars between Athens, Sparta and their allies (431-404 BCE ).

A marble bust of Herodotus from the Roman period. He has medium-length hair and a full, curly beard. He looks to be in late middle-age, with lines on his brow but without excessive wrinkles. In Greek at the bottom of the bust is written his name.
Marble bust of Herodotus

The Histories

A scan of a woodcut illustration from J.S. White's The Boys' and Girls' Herodotus. The illustration is of the Mameluke tomb in Cairo. It shows a ruined building of classical or Islamic architecture, the dome still more or less complete but with the wall facing the viewer gone. Two small figures walk together in front of the building.
Illustrated page from J.S. White’s edition of Herodotus

Herodotus’ Histories (lit. ‘inquiries’) tell the story of the wars that took place between the Achaemenid Persian empire and the Greeks in the early years of the fifth century BCE (490-479 BCE). But they include much more than this. The Histories are the central text not only for the history of the Greek world in the preceding centuries but also for the history and customs of the Persians, Lydians, Egyptians, Scythians and many more. In the breadth and sympathy of their approach to human life, the Histories have remained a model of critical engagement with the past to the present day.

The Helpline

The Herodotus Helpline began as an online seminar on 1 April 2020, in the context of the first COVID-19 lockdown. The seminar was designed to make up for the lack of any collective intellectual activity, and as an expression of fellowship at a time when that was especially valuable.

The Helpline has since grown into a unique – and a uniquely warm and generous – community. It draws its membership from every continent except Antarctica. It includes established scholars, University students, school pupils, members of reading groups – anyone with an interest in deepening their understanding of Herodotus and his world. 2022 will see our launch of Syllogos, an open-access online journal dedicated to Herodotus.

The Helpline is a charity registered in Scotland. To become a member, simply apply to join via the form on the home page. There is no membership fee, and the Helpline will never charge for any of its activities. For more details of the Helpline’s organisation, see the Herodotus Helpline Governing Document.

People

The Helpline is made up of all its members, whatever your background or the nature of your interest in Herodotus and his world. If you have any suggestions about the direction of the Helpline, or would like to help in any way (if you have suggestions for seminar topics or events, ideas for new areas of activity, or would like to contribute your expertise in other ways), please do get in touch using the contact page. 

A crucial role in the shaping of the Helpline was played by two members who are no longer with us.

In this black and white photograph, P.J. Rhodes, an older man with glasses in a suit and tie, sits in a comfortable-looking, patterned, stuffed armchair, deeply engrossed in a large hardcover book.
P.J. Rhodes relaxes with a book. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Classics & Ancient History, Durham University.

P.J. Rhodes

P.J. Rhodes was both an extraordinary scholar of Greek history and historiography, and hugely generous and supportive to generations of younger scholars. He attended nearly every session of the Helpline before his death in October 2021, and gave a characteristically authoritative paper on political decision-making which will be published in the first edition of Syllogos.

Doris Post, an older woman with short hair wearing a Herodotus Helpline t-shit, smiles broadly at the camera, backed by a gorgeous natural scene including a winding river, several mountains, and a blue sky with puffy clouds.
Doris Post at the Old Precipice Walk near Dolgellau, 2021. Photo courtesy Christiane Swain.

Doris Post

Doris Post undertook her studies in Classics only after a long career as a teacher of modern languages. Although her main passion was Greek tragedy (she gave a joint paper on the relationship of Herodotus and Sophocles), she was a constantly warm and generous presence at the Helpline’s meetings and was central to the planning of Syllogos of which she was due to be the first production managerThe journal will include an annual essay prize for early career researchers in her name.

All the activities of the Helpline are overseen by a small steering committee of academics, students and general readers of the Histories, answerable in turn to the membership. The steering committee delegates oversight of Syllogos to the editorial committee.

Helpline Steering Committee:

Euan Bowman, University of St Andrews
Francesca Gazzano, University of Genova
Thomas Harrison, University of St Andrews
Jan Haywood, University of Leicester
Aaron Hershkowitz, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ
Nicola Rawnsley, University of Auckland
Maddalena Scarperi, University of Pennsylvania

Syllogos Editorial Committee:

Paul Demont, Sorbonne University
John Dillery, University of Virginia
Francesca Gazzano, University of Genova
Thomas Harrison, University of St Andrews
Jan Haywood, University of Leicester
Elizabeth Irwin, Columbia University
Polly Low, University of Durham
Andreas Schwab, Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel
Pietro Vannicelli, Sapienza University of Rome