Books interview: Herodotus’s ‘The Histories’

Tom Holland has spent almost nine years producing a new translation of Herodotus's The Histories, widely credited as the founding work of non-fiction in the western world. Here, he talks to Matt Elton about its importance, and the insights it can offer us into the classical age

Bust of Herodotus. "Herodotus gives us access to someone's speech, their opinion, 2,500 years ago," says Tom Holland. (Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the October 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Are we right to see Herodotus’s work as genuinely revolutionary?

Yes. Not only is it the first work of history, it’s also the first work of non-fiction, so it’s the first attempt to portray the reality of the world. And so, in that sense, it’s the start of the process that has culminated in the enormous array of information that we now have on the internet. Wikipedia’s ambition to contain all the knowledge of the world begins with Herodotus.

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