What is the History of Translation of Herodotus in Hebrew?

Answer by Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz

The history of Hebrew translations of Herodotus’ Histories or parts thereof is very short. The first translation appeared in 1930, as Volume 39, The Stories of Herodotus, in a series of texts intended for schools, “Scrolls for Schools”. The translator, I.L. Baruch (a poet and writer who also translated, among others, von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, and Jules Verne), published in four tracts parts of Books 1 and 2: Tract A, “Croesus and Solon” (1.26-92); Tract B, “Cyrus” (1.95-216); Tract C, “The Egyptians” (2.2, 4, 35-41, 47, 59-63, 65-71, 73, 76-77, 80-81, 84-90, 93, 97, 121, 124-125, 127, 147-148, 151-152, 154, 158-159); Tract D, “The Babylonians and the Persians” (1.131-140, 178-191, 193-200). The front page says “written [i.e., the text of Herodotus] in Hebrew”, so it is not certain that this was a translation from the Greek.

The second Hebrew translation was made in 1935-1936 by Alexander Schorr (an educator and historian). Schorr, who studied history and classical languages at the university of Vienna, translated the whole of Herodotus’ Histories from the Greek. This translation (published in two volumes by Reuven Mass Publisher, Jerusalem) was the only complete one, used by students, scholars and the wide readership. Schorr’s translation went out of stock (until digitized by the Ben-Yehuda Project).

In 1998, a new translation from the Greek was published by Benjamin Shimron and Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz (Tel Aviv: Papyrus-Dyonon). A paperback edition was published in 2013 (Jerusalem: Carmel). Being written in a more accessible Hebrew, this translation to a large degree replaced the older one.

Two Hebrew translations of the political debate in Book 3, chapters 82-83 were made by Gabriel Herman (appearing in a special issue of the journal Prosa (vol. 63, 1983, p. 14) and by Aaron Shabtai (appended to his Hebrew translation of Sophocles’ Antigone, Tel Aviv: Schoken 1990, pp. 153-155).