HomeAncient HistoryAncient GreeceHistorical sources for the study of Ancient Greece

Historical sources for the study of Ancient Greece



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Logographers wrote different contents of the first prose texts. According to the submission, the oldest logographer was Cadmus of Miletus, the most important was Hecataeus of Miletus (Genealogy – genealogy of gods and heroes). While Hellanic from Mytilene wrote the earliest history of Attica (Atida). Historians – traditionally the first true historian and the father of history was Herodotus.

Herodotus (484-424 BC)

Was born into a wealthy family in Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. When he was in Athens he agreed with Pericles’ policy. Herodotus gained many eminent friends in Athens. Friendship with Pericles influenced Herodotus to join with Athenian settlers who 444/3 BC on the Pericles initiative went to South Italy and build the Turin. Here is Herodotus, living in peace-time working on his “Histories”. In “Histories” he wanted to show polis Athens as Greece’s savior in the Greco-Persian wars. He traveled through the whole Greece and visited the places where fought significant battles during Greco-Persian wars.

The most important stage in his life was three trips. First trip, to the north when he came to the Black Sea and visited many of the Greek settlements, moved through Scythian territory and finally he spent time in colony Olbia. The second trip was aimed at the south to Egypt. The third trip was to the east (Asia trip). During that trip he met two great cultures: Persian and Babylonian.  With Herodotus “Histories” it was beginnings of historical research. Herodotus “Histories” written into nine books. The first six books describes the growth of the Persian Empire. The last three books describes Xerxes attempt to avenge the Persian defeat after the Battle of Marathon and also Persian attempt to include Greece into empire. The “Histories”ended within 479. BC, when Greece defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis.

Thucydides (circa 460-400)

Thucydides was born in  small village named Halimous (today’s Alimos) around 460 BC. There is very little reliable information about him. The most information’s comes from Thucydides own “History of the Peloponnesian War“. The “History of Peloponnesian War” was divided into 8 books, and the first one represented the synthesis of earlier Greek history. He was personally Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War so his book is primary source for studying the events of the war. Thucydides was very reliable with his information’s because he was looking for a reliable testimony of events. Thucydides was the greatest ancient historian and forerunner of modern historians. Thucydides’ work has been continued by Xenophon, who wrote “The history of Greece”. In his work, Xenophon tried to idealize Lacedaemonian constitution and Spartan political system.


Great historiographical importance had Aristotle with his work “Athenaion Politeia”, which had been a historical overview of the Athenian state constitution. Aristotle was born in the polis Stagira 384 BC and he was a student of philosopher Plato in AthensShortly after the death of Plato, Aristotle left Athens. At the request of Philip II of Macedon, Aristotle taught Alexander the Great from 343 BC. He founded the library in the Lyceum. This Library has printed his books. His books are great source for studying Athenian politics and government.