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Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes


Serious Notions with a Smile


Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site



13) Heifetz is totally convinced that the Jews have always been at the center of world's attention, that they have always served as an immanent object of hatred and envy, that they are essentially indispensable, and most importantly, that the Jews themselves have remained unchanged through the ages and that other nations and faiths have always related to the Jews as Christians treated Jews during the Middle Ages.

After Heifetz fearlessly discovers the festival of Purim in the works of Herodotus and Ctesius,[31] he tries to explain to the reader why both authors failed to recognize this event and to associate it with the Jews. On p. 130 (and in footnote 137) he writes:

At any rate, Herodotus and Ctesius, who were not sufficiently familiar with the Jews and their religion... defined it [magophobia] as a Persian festival, exactly the way Herodotus attributed the rite of circumcision to Egypt, even though he knew perfectly well that it was practiced above all by the Jews, whom he called Syro-Palestinians... By the way, it is interesting to read the account of the crossing of the Erythraean Sea as depicted by Herodotus (7, 89): "This nation, as it tells itself, lived in the distant past at the Erythraean Sea; however, having crossed the sea, it settled on the coast of the Syrian Sea, where it has been living to this day. This area of Syria, as the entire region from here to Egypt, is called Palestine." See also the story of the ichthyophagi (fish-eaters) from Jeb (3, 19-23), who describe longevity as a time-span of 120 years. Without any doubt, the reference is to the inhabitants of the Jewish colony at Yeb. Apparently they have preserved a papyrus containing the Behistun biography of Darius. It is from this list and the oral commentaries of the local residents that Herodotus obtained, in my opinion, the large part of his information on Darius, the son of Hystaspes.

To begin with, it is surprising with what affection Heifetz treats the people of Yeb, having found it necessary to return to them and their supposed meeting with Herodotus. It passes understanding why only they would have been able to supply Herodotus with information on Darius. Equally mind-boggling is the picture of Herodotus attributing Jewish customs to other nations due to his poor knowledge of Jewish religion, while knowing perfectly well that these customs were practiced by the Jews themselves![32]

We will discuss Heifetz's biography of Herodotus below; for now we will only note that Heifetz's triangle of Herodotus-Yeb-Darius is rife with problems and Heifetz would do well to stay away from it. Indeed, according to Heifetz's historical reconstruction Darius, the son of Hystaspes and the last king of Persia, ruled after the Peloponnesian War (and for good reason: he was a contemporary of the same Alexander who went on to defeat him, and Alexander ruled after Greece had already lost its independence to Macedonia). According to traditionally held views, Herodotus lived, and most importantly wrote, prior to the Peloponnesian War, so he could not have known or written anything about Heifetz's Darius, let alone obtain information about Darius in Egypt. In order to overcome this obstacle Heifetz, as we shall see, transports Herodotus into another time -- the era of the Diadochs, Alexander's successors. In the process Herodotus naturally stops being the "father of history" or even a mere precursor of Thucydides and Xenophon, of Plato and Aristotle. Interestingly, he also stops being the predecessor of Ctesius, who wrote copious and abusive remarks aimed against him. However, even if Herodotus did live shortly after Alexander, as Heifetz maintains, then he would have seen Darius, Alexander's rival, as no more than an elderly contemporary with a well-known biography, so he would have had no need of the Yeban informers.[33] This time Heifetz becomes entangled in his historical reconstruction, forgetting that it lists Darius as a rather late Persian king. A regrettable blunder!

At the moment, it is of far greater interest to discuss the issue of the Jews -- real or fictional -- featured, in Heifetz's opinion, in Herodotus' History.

To begin with, the passage from Herodotus (7:89) quoted by Heifetz, supposedly depicting the crossing of the Erythraean Sea by the Jews, has been distorted and cut short. The actual passage is as follows:

Of the triremes the number proved to be one thousand two hundred and seven, and these were they who furnished them: the Phoenicians, together with the Syrians who dwell in Palestine furnished three hundred; and they were equipped thus, that is to say, they had about their heads leathern caps made very nearly in the Hellenic fashion, and they wore corslets of linen, and had shields without rims and javelins. These Phoenicians dwelt in ancient time, as they themselves report, upon the Erythraean Sea, and thence they passed over and dwell in the country along the sea coast of Syria; and this part of Syria and all as far as Egypt is called Palestine.

The striking fact is that Heifetz translates the words "the Phoenicians" as "this nation", and the words "passed over" as "having crossed the sea". By means of this simple technique he creates a resemblance to the Jewish myth of crossing of parted Red Sea. In fact, one does not need to conduct additional research to realize that in this instance, Herodotus is talking not about the Jews but about a sea-faring nation capable of supplying many ships and soldiers at the order of the Persian king, and wearing helmets similar to those worn by the Greeks. The Jews, on the other hand, did not inhabit coastal areas during the Persian period; they neither built military ships nor possessed any army to speak of. As for the fleet and the Grecian helmets, those details are too embarrassing to discuss. Moreover, Herodotus stresses that in the days of old, the Erythraean Sea region was inhabited not by Syrians (which could conceivably have been a euphemism for Jews) but by the Phoenicians!

Even more interesting is the geographic exegesis, for in this instance the Erythraean Sea clearly implies the Persian Gulf! Take this passage, for example (6, 20):

Those of the Milesians whose lives were spared, being carried prisoners to Susa, received no ill treatment at the hands of King Darius, but were established by him in Ampe, a city on the shores of the Erythraean sea, near the spot where the Tigris flows into it.

Or another passage (7, 80):

The Islanders who came from the Erythraean Sea, where they inhabited the islands to which the king sends those whom he banishes, wore a dress and arms almost exactly like the Median.

Thus all Herodotus does is retell a well-known legend (which has historical meaning as well), according to which the Phoenicians trace their origins to the Aramaic tribes inhabiting the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, at the shore of the Persian Gulf. In any case, this story has nothing to do with the Jews -- at the very least because during the Persian period the latter could not have been called Phoenicians by any stretch of imagination, built no ships and did not engage in sea trade. As for Jews inhabiting the shore of the Persian Gulf, this is too preposterous to even mention.

It should be noted, for the sake of the general picture, that in the geographic parlance of that period, the term ‘Erythraean Sea' stood for all of the Indian Ocean, so that in a different context the same term could be (and was) used to connote the Persian Gulf, the tropical waters of the ocean itself, or today's Red Sea. I will cite some examples where Herodotus uses the term "Erythraen Sea" in a variety of meanings.

(1:180) -- referring to the Persian Gulf:

Babylon then was walled in this manner; and there are two divisions of the city; for a river whose name is Euphrates parts it in the middle. This flows from the land of the Armenians and is large and deep and swift, and it flows out into the Erythraean sea.

(1:189) -- referring to the Persian Gulf:

Cyrus on his way to Babylon came to the banks of the Gyndes, a stream which, rising in the Matienian mountains, runs through the country of the Dardanians, and empties itself into the river Tigris. The Tigris, after receiving the Gyndes, flows on by the city of Opis, and discharges its waters into the Erythraean sea.

(1:202) -- referring to the Indian Ocean:

The Caspian is a sea by itself, having no connection with any other. The sea frequented by the Greeks, that beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which is called the Atlantic, and also the Erythraean, are all one and the same sea.

(2:8) -- referring to the "western part of the Indian Ocean":

As one proceeds beyond Heliopolis up the country, Egypt becomes narrow, the Arabian range of hills, which has a direction from north to south, shutting it in upon the one side, and the Libyan range upon the other. The former ridge runs on without a break, and stretches away to the sea called the Erythraean.

(2:11) -- referring to the "western part of the Indian Ocean":

In Arabia, not far from Egypt, there is a long and narrow gulf [34] running inland from the sea called the Erythraean [to Syria].

(2:158) -- in the modern sense of the "Red Sea":

Psammetichus left a son called Necos, who succeeded him upon the throne. This prince was the first to attempt the construction of the canal to the Erythraean Sea -- a work completed afterwards by Darius the Persian.

And finally, the most striking example (4:37) -- referring to both the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf:

The Persians inhabit a country upon the Southern or Erythraean sea.

What is far more interesting is the circumcision episode mentioned by Heifetz (see above) -- as well as the fact that Herodotus refers to the inhabitants of Palestine as Phoenicians or Syrians. In (2:104) Herodotus writes:

...The Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians, are the only nations who have practised circumcision from the earliest times. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves confess that they learnt the custom of the Egyptians; and the Syrians who dwell about the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they have recently adopted it from the Colchians. Now these are the only nations who use circumcision, and it is plain that they all imitate herein the Egyptians. With respect to the Ethiopians, indeed, I cannot decide whether they learnt the practice of the Egyptians, or the Egyptians of them -- it is undoubtedly of very ancient date in Ethiopia -- but that the others [the Phoenicians and Syrians] derived their knowledge of it from Egypt is clear to me from the fact that the Phoenicians, when they come to have commerce with the Greeks, cease to follow the Egyptians in this custom, and allow their children to remain uncircumcised.

We have here an anthropological study undertaken by Herodotus which is naïve and insightful at once. He attempted to use his methods in order to trace the source of the circumcision ritual and the ways it was dispersed. We know today that this custom very often accompanies the tribal system, and can be encountered virtually on every continent. Even though Herodotus had much less information at his disposal, he reached the right conclusion: the earliest people in the Near East to practice circumcision were probably the Egyptians (who used it as early as the period of the Old Kingdom). Therefore Heifetz's claim that circumcision should be attributed first and foremost to the Jews is off the mark: the Egyptians practiced this custom long before there was even a hint of Jews. Another significant fact is that even among the Semitic peoples of the Levant not a single one, including the Jews, had the monopoly on circumcision in ancient times. Herodotus viewed circumcision as a deplorable ancient custom that was naturally eradicated in contact with the civilized Greeks.

The revealing fact is that not once does Herodotus mention the Jews or use any toponyms that could be associated with them. To the area between Phoenicia and Egypt he refers as either Palestine or (more often) Palestinian Syria, and to its inhabitants as either Phoenicians, Palestinian Syrians or Arabs. It is not quite clear to what extent he was familiar with what was happening in Palestinian areas further inland from the Mediterranean coast. Apparently not much: after all, the inhabitants of the Palestinian highlands took no part in the main politics of the time. On the other hand, he was quite interested in the coastal peoples of the Levant. Significantly, he makes no mention of either Jerusalem, Samaria or Judea (even though both Samaria and Judea were autonomous provinces under Persian protectorate), nor, in fact, of a single name or detail connected to the domestic affairs of inland Palestine. It is hard to believe that he was determined to conceal the fact of the existence of the Jews or the Samaritans from his readers. It is far more natural to assume that he himself had no knowledge of their existence, and that for him Palestine was merely part of the Persian province of Syria (or Abar Nahara, i.e. the "area beyond the river", meaning the region to the west of the Euphrates); moreover, his interest was focused exclusively on its coastal area.

From this, incidentally, we can make certain inferences as to when Herodotus wrote his History: in the fifth century BCE the Jewish autonomous area was so tiny that it could have easily become lost within the huge empire. If Herodotus, as Heifetz believes, had lived during the Hellenistic period, it would have been much more difficult to pass over the Jews in silence -- after all, by that time they had reached far greater numbers and his potential readers were more likely to have heard of them. All of the above does not apply to Herodotus alone: no Greek writer of the pre-Hellenistic time whose works have survived made a single mention of the Jews. Well, it seems that the Greeks, too, had gaps in their education.

14) On 136 Heifetz writes:

To conclude this chapter, a few words are in order concerning Herodotus' lifetime. As we have already noted, we have no tangible knowledge about his life and times. From all we have proposed so far in order to collate traditional sources of Jewish history with the writings of Herodotus and other Greek historians, it naturally follows that Herodotus, or at least the latest author of Herodotus' book on the Persian War that is presently before us, lived during the Macedonian period. He was born during the time of Darius the Persian, or towards the end of the reign of Ahasuerus the Great, and lived during the time of Alexander the Great and later, during the time of Ptolemy I Soter. There are ample proofs in support of this conclusion (which may appear revolutionary to many, if not to all); I will cite then one by one, without claiming thereby to do full justice to their content.

A) It is an indisputable fact that Thucydides does not mention Herodotus by name, even though he does mention by name Hellanicus in connection to the war between Persia and Greece and the subsequent events.

In footnote 161 to this passage, Heifetz ironically adds:

To be sure, we can stretch the point quite a bit to claim that Herodotus was one of the people referred to by Thucydides in his casual phrase: "I have depicted these events because none of my predecessors had dealt with this period, describing either those events that preceded the Median wars, or the Median wars themselves." Yet Herodotus had earned the title of "the father of history", and his book on the Median (Persian) War should have been the most important and famous work in the entire Greek world during the time of Thucydides; moreover, it contains stories that are also recounted in Thucydides' book. How is it possible that Thucydides would have totally ignored such a great historian? To answer this question, we can naturally look at the strange Grecian customs.

B) The definition of the Peloponnesian War as one continuous war that lasted for 27 years was not commonly accepted by Greek scholars, with the exception of Thucydides, until the Macedonian period. The others viewed it as two unrelated wars between Athens and Sparta, divided by the Peace of Nicias. Plato even talks about three wars between the two powers. However, Herodotus mentions the Peloponnesian War on several occasions, sometimes referring to it by that very name, as a single full-scale war between Athens and Sparta.

C) Up until the Macedonian period, the Caspian Sea was known as the Hyrcanean Sea; yet Herodotus invariably refers to it as the Caspian. Moreover, Herodotus seems to have forestalled all other Greeks by determining that it was an enclosed body of water, even though this fact did not become known to the Greeks until the time of Ptolemy I Soter.

D) Artemisia, the famous wife of king Mausolus of Halicarnassus, lived, according to archaeological data, during the time of Artaxerxes III, i.e. a very short time before Alexander the Great. However, it we are to believe Herodotus, she lived during the reign of Xerxes.

E) Herodotus' description of Alexander the king of Macedonia, one of the ancestors of Alexander the Great, who fought on the side of Persia during the Greco-Persian wars, leaves the impression that the author was seeing Alexander the Great...

F) I believe that Hecataeus of Miletus, a historian often mentioned by Herodotus, who wrote about Egypt among other things, is none other than Hecataeus of Abdera, a historian who wrote a great deal about Egypt as well as the Jews and who, in the opinion of Josephus Flavius and all the others, lived during the period of Alexander the Great and later, at the time of Ptolemy Soter...

G) I find it tempting to conclude that Herodotus is none other than Hermodotus, a little-known poet who lived during the reign of Antigonus the Great, shortly after Alexander -- the same one who dubbed Antigonus a god to flatter the king. Herodotus' book is chock full of poetic quotes of every kind.

With this unexpected and totally unprovoked attack (not the first, and probably not the last in the history of world literature) on Herodotus, Heifetz concludes his work. I am duty-bound to set the record straight by defending the great scholar and writer, especially as this provides me with the sole means of criticizing the only specific and at least somewhat developed argument constructed by Heifetz. And so, Herodotus as such never even existed: instead, there was a second-rate litterateur living at the turn of the third century BCE. Consequently, the book he wrote must have been second-rate as well.

To begin with, let us ask ourselves: why did Heifetz need all this in the first place?

From the standpoint of pure logic a personal attack on Herodotus serves no purpose whatsoever and does not advance Heifetz's version one bit. Heifetz's main enemy among the ancient Greeks is Thucydides, and yet the theoretician of Jewish reconstruction does not dare touch so much as a hair on his head. Thus he attacks Herodotus out of despair and a thirst for revenge, the way one kicks a dog when afraid to touch its master. Heifetz hates Herodotus fully as much as he does Thucydides, even though the former is less of a threat. After all, it was Herodotus who told several stories about Persian kings -- Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and such -- who did not exist according to Jewish tradition, and yet get tangled up in it. Well, his hour of reckoning has come. Heifetz has settled accounts with him in front of our very eyes.

Now, what can we say in Herodotus' defense?

For starters, we can say that his opponent, illiterate and biased manipulator that he is, cannot hold a candle to him. Indeed, Heifetz reproaches Thucydides for the failure to mention in his work the "father of history", whose book at the time "should have been the most important and famous work in the entire Greek world." And yet he knows (he cannot help knowing) perfectly well that the title of "father of history" was bestowed on Herodotus by Cicero, a first century BCE Roman politician, lawyer and intellectual who lived some 400 years after Herodotus and 350 years after Thucydides. Thus this reproach is nothing but flagrant provocation designed to mislead the ignorant. There is no doubt that Thucydides was familiar with the work of Herodotus, his senior contemporary, and had a disparaging attitude towards it. Altogether, historians belonging to the school of Thucydides (whose ranks the author of these lines would have willingly joined) frequently took exception to Herodotus. Thus Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who lived at the turn of the new era, in a work dedicated to Thucydides fails to mention Herodotus in a list of historians who lived before and during Thucydides' time. Yet during Dionysius' lifetime Herodotus was an indisputable and widely quoted classical author, so that this omission was merely an expression of literary opinion -- no more than that.

This would be the most fitting place to recall that even in antiquity Herodotus was considered a perfect example of tolerance, which was not treated as a particularly desirable trait in those times. He was so opposed to the idea of the ethnic and cultural superiority of the Greeks over the rest of the world that he earned the label of "philobarbarian", while Plutarch wrote an entire lampoon entitled "On the Depravity of Herodotus". What a striking difference from Heifetz, who views his own god-given cultural superiority as self-evident!

The hypothesis that deprives Herodotus of the right to existence in the pre-Macedonian time may be exploded in a very simple fashion. Heifetz seems to have overlooked the fact that Aristotle himself, Rhetorics (III: 9:2), not only mentions Herodotus but even quotes from the opening passage of his work. For Aristotle, Herodotus is a classical author. Since Aristotle himself is perfectly located both chronologically (in the fourth century BCE) and historically (as Plato's disciple, head of the Academy and Alexander's mentor among other things), this places Herodotus squarely in the fifth century BCE according to scientific chronology as well as in his own (virtual) era within the framework of Heifetz's Jewish reconstruction. The latter is not hard to establish. Indeed, according to Heifetz the Peloponnesian War ended less than 20 years before Alexander's victory at Gaugamela. Therefore the author, whose works were viewed as classics by Aristotle (himself considerably older than Alexander), clearly lived before the Peloponnesian War and not during the Macedonian Diadoch Wars " which is precisely what we have set out to prove.

It is worthwhile to reiterate that Herodotus' History became the object of harsh criticism on the part of Ctesius, who served as court physician for Persian royalty during the late fifth/early fourth centuries BCE. Even if Heifetz ultimately places Ctesius at the very end of the Persian era, this will do nothing to change the basic facts: whatever the case, Herodotus will remain an author who wrote before the Peloponnesian War or, at the very latest, at its start.

Before we examine Heifetz's specific arguments against Herodotus, which are ludicrous for the most part, let us take a brief look at the great historian himself. Did he ever exist? And if he did, then when?

To begin with, we have his book before us. It has been thoroughly scrutinized by specialists. Some of the first questions they seek to answer are: what information did the author have at his disposal? What are the things he knew? What are the things he did not know? What did he know better and what worse? Were there things he could not have even guessed?

As German scholar F. Jacobi has so aptly observed, Herodotus refers to the expulsion of the inhabitants of Aegina in 431 BCE in his work (as well as several other events related to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War), yet he makes no mention of their extermination in 424 BCE. This historical bifurcation is not an isolated incident. On the contrary, his discussion of events accompanying the Peloponnesian War refers only to the very start of the war (e.g., he does not say a word about Persian king Darius II, who assumed the throne in 425 BCE) -- and this despite his passion for detail and loquacity. Thus it would be reasonable to conclude that by 425 BCE, Herodotus was no longer among the living. Indeed, scholars who meticulously studied the History concluded that it lacked any information concerning events that occurred after 425 BCE.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the events of 480/479 BCE, to wit Xerxes' campaign against Greece and the total victory of the Greeks on sea and land, even though relegated to the final chapters of Herodotus' book, constitute its nucleus in every respect. Herodotus was not actively involved in these events (at the time of Xerxes' invasion he was still a child), yet in contrast to earlier events, he is accurately and thoroughly informed about the events in question. Undoubtedly, he considers them relevant for himself and his period -- the time of Athenian greatness. The History depicts an era that begins in about 600 BCE, but the moment it launches into a description of the great Greco-Persian campaign the book's very sense of time undergoes a change. The period of Greco-Persian wars is treated by Herodotus with focus and attention to detail that are totally different from the way he deals with earlier events, and always through the prism of the subsequent period of Athenian ascendance. For Herodotus, this period of the wars is a time of real political rather than historical concerns, and the many instances of his obvious bias become intelligible only in view of the particular features of the period. In short, Herodotus describes Xerxes' invasion as an Athenian living during the time of Pericles, whose views are understandably anti-Spartan, anti-Theban and anti-Corinthian, yet decidedly pro-Argosian.[35] He did not live to see Athens defeated in the Peloponnesian War, and so -- unlike Thucydides and Xenophon -- he never witnessed the era of Spartan domination.[36]

An even more telling testimony to the time of Herodotus is his knowledge of foreign, above all Persian, affairs. Herodotus is perfectly informed about the occurrences at royal Persian courts during the reign of Darius I and Xerxes.[37] For example, Xerxes' "harem inscription", discovered in 1932, provided total proof of Herodotus' account of the struggle for the crown that took place between Darius' sons. At the same time, as noted above, Herodotus does not so much as mention the coronation of Darius II, let alone the events that followed it.

Also of considerable interest is Herodotus' knowledge of geography. Herodotus is credited with two major geographic discoveries: it was he who was the first to visit the city of Meroe (and thereby "discover" the Meroitic civilization), as well as to inform the Greek world that the Caspian Sea was an enclosed body of water. In both cases he was far ahead of his times. Scientists living at a much later time, such as Eratosphen (third century BCE) and Strabon (the start of the Common Era), believed the Caspian Sea to be a bay of the Arctic Ocean. The notion of the Caspian Sea as an enclosed body of water became commonly accepted only in the second century CE, through the work of Claudius Ptolemy.[38] On the other hand, Herodotus' notions of India clearly indicate that he lived long before Alexander's Indian campaign. This is further implied in statements like "Asia was populated before India, and further to the East it forms an unexplored desert". In the fifth century BCE a scientist could hardly have been expected to know more, but in the Hellenistic period the existence of the countries of the Far East was common knowledge and the "Silk Route" was already in active use.

A no less vivid testimony to "the era of Herodotus" is his description of the northern coast of the Black Sea. It is completely consistent with the scientific dating for the life and activity of Herodotus. The fact of the matter is, in the late fifth century BCE, shortly after Herodotus' death, the political map of the region changed. Specifically, the Greek Bosphorian kingdom significantly grew in its power and influence and began a process of territorial expansion that resulted in new and unique relations with its Scythian neighbors. Herodotus does not have the slightest idea about any of this.

In short, both external evidence and textual analysis provide a clear chronological framework for Herodotus' life. It is further corroborated by analysis of his particular language (the Ionian dialect). Yet the inter-textual testimony of the ancients is even more compelling. The ancient writers who studied and criticized Herodotus had access to works by other authors, works that unfortunately have not been preserved. Dialogue between the ancient sources clearly indicates that Herodotus is the earliest among the Greek prose-writers whose works have been preserved. Since in the chronological list of wholly preserved authors he is followed by Thucydides, Xenophon and Plato (and this list is enhanced by "non-prose-writers" such as the highly popular dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes, contemporaries of Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon respectively) -- Hellenic rather than Hellenistic writers, succeeded by a uninterrupted sequence of obviously Hellenistic authors -- Heifetz's "Macedonian hypothesis" becomes, to put it mildly, downright nonsensical.

Now let us go through Heifetz's particular claims.

A) Having mentioned Hellanicus, Thucydides "forgot" about the "father of history", Herodotus.

We have already discussed the way Heifetz has manipulated the title of "father of history" awarded to Herodotus by Cicero, as well as the hostility towards Herodotus on the part of the followers of Thucydides. In order to uncover yet another of Heifetz's manipulations, lets us return to Thucydides himself. In the passage quoted by Heifetz (1:97) Thucydides writes:

Now was the time that the office of "Treasurers for Hellas" was first instituted by the Athenians. These officers received the tribute, as the money contributed was called. The tribute was first fixed at four hundred and sixty talents. The common treasury was at Delos, and the congresses were held in the temple. Their supremacy commenced with independent allies who acted on the resolutions of a common congress. It was marked by the following undertakings in war and in administration during the interval between the Median and the present war, against the barbarian, against their own rebel allies and against the Peloponnesian powers which would come in contact with them on various occasions. My excuse for relating these events and for venturing on this digression is that this passage of history has been omitted by all my predecessors, who have confined themselves either to Hellenic history before the Median war, or to the Median war itself. Hellanicus, it is true, did touch on these events in his Athenian history; but he is somewhat concise and not accurate in his dates. Besides, the history of these events contains an explanation of the growth of the Athenian Empire.

Therefore, whatever his attitude to Herodotus' work may have been, Thucydides simply had no reason to mention him at this point -- the same as Hecataeus, for example. The fact is that since neither Herodotus nor Hecataeus provided any description of the period between the Persian wars and the Peloponnesian War, they would not be considered as rivals by Thucydides! The only reason Thucydides mentioned Hellanicus (from Mytilene, Lesbos) was that the latter, unlike the others, did include some discussion of this period in his famous work, which unfortunately has not been preserved. It was important for Thucydides to emphasize his dissatisfaction with Hellanicus' work and thereby justify his own efforts -- that is the only reason he mentioned him at all.

B) Herodotus refers to the Peloponnesian War as a single continuous war lasting 27 years -- a view that was not accepted by Greek scholars, with the exception of Thucydides, until the Macedonian times.

Alas, this is yet another instance where Heifetz stakes all his hopes on the reader's ignorance. Let us begin with the main point: Herodotus, as we already know, did not live to see not just the end, but even the middle of the Peloponnesian War; he barely lived through the first quarter of it. How, then, could he refer to it as a war that lasted for 27 years? And where exactly does he say so? Naturally, Heifetz does not provide a quote. Herodotus' History barely mentions the war in question; in fact, it refers to a few events that preceded the war and keeps total silence as to what happened next. There was absolutely no way Herodotus could have dealt with the war in its entirety, not knowing how it progressed or ended. Naturally, he never even tried to formulate any attitude towards the war, let alone give it a name. The claim that Herodotus "consolidated" the Peloponnesian war into a single whole is yet another anachronism on Heifetz's part.

The following is the only instance (to the best of my knowledge) that Herodotus makes any sort of express reference to the Peloponnesian War in his History (9, 73):

As a reward for this action, Sparta has always, from that time to the present, allowed the Deceleians to be free from all dues, and to have seats of honour at their festivals; and hence too, in the war which took place many years after these events between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, the Lacedaemonians, while they laid waste all the rest of Attica, spared the lands of the Deceleians.

We should note the way in which the work refers to an event that occurred at the very start of the war, as well as the fact that the term "Peloponnesian War" never even appears. Even more interestingly, Thucydides does not make use of the term either! That is no wonder, for it is a much later term. Nor could it be otherwise, for the term does not carry the natural, expected connotation of "a war that took place on Peloponnesian territory". It implies something else altogether: a war that ended in Peloponnesian victory over all the rest of the Greeks! That the term "Peloponnesian War" saw light of day at all has a large measure of the accidental.

As for the literary tradition of dividing the Peloponnesian War into several campaigns, it has never detracted from the global picture, which became absolutely inescapable after Sparta won a total victory over Athens with the support of the Persian king, establishing its hegemony in Greece and ceding control of the Aegean Sea to the Persians. There is no doubt that the Peloponnesian War was nothing short of a world war by the standards of the Hellenic world, a clash between two of Greece's superpowers who had vainly tried to divide this world for some time.

It is a curious fact that the two Europe-wide world wars were also divided by historians into numerous separate campaigns. Suffice it to recall the battles of the Somme and Ypres, the battle for Stalingrad, Al-Alamein and Kursk, the fighting at Ardennes, the Berlin campaign and so on. Yet who could conceivably deny their lamentable unity?

C) Herodotus knew too much about the Caspian Sea.

We have already touched on the issue of Herodotus' knowledge of geography. While making brilliant breakthroughs in some areas, he displayed total ignorance in others. Nothing could be more natural than the scientific eclecticism of the ancients. What is far more interesting is something else: by claiming that "Herodotus knew too much", Heifetz has unwittingly accepted the Greek intellectual paradigm! Indeed, from Heifetz's standpoint, "knowing too much" merely means knowing more than the Greek science of the time, which gradually became European science. However, in the fifth century BCE (as opposed to, say, the second century BCE) the world -- and that includes the world of science -- did not end with Greece. Moreover, Hellenic science had not yet assumed the all-encompassing form we are accustomed to in the post-Aristotelian universe.

The whole point is that in Herodotus' time Greek science was still open to outside influences, possessing an inner freedom that would somewhat dissipate later on. As Bertrand Russell aptly observes, in the fourth century BCE Greek science began to pay obeisance to metaphysical dogmatism. What happened was that Herodotus, in his wanderings through the northern coast of the Black Sea, Mesopotamia, and other exotic lands, encountered a non-Greek (probably Assyrian) geographic tradition -- sometimes accurate, sometimes not " and presented some of its elements to the Greek reader. What is equally true is that the Greek world disregarded this information, so it lay idle for many centuries afterwards. The invaluable observation concerning the Caspian Sea being an enclosed basin remained rejected and unused and at times even ridiculed. The sense of a brilliant discovery that it leaves us with is anachronistic, if for no other reason than the fact that we view it from completely different positions than the ancients did. As we know, the ancients remained unimpressed with Herodotus' geographic revelations. The Greek civilization, rejecting a large part of the scientific knowledge of the East, was later forced to discover virtually everything anew. In fact, during the Renaissance European civilization followed the same "independent" path, so that we should not be surprised at Herodotus' intellectual openness and the Hellenistic indifference.

A useful analogy can be gained from the story of the great astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, who lived from about 310 to 230 BCE. Aristarchus constructed a fairly comprehensive heliocentric system of the world and made a pretty accurate estimate of the size of many heavenly bodies and the distances between them. There was no inquisition at that time and his theory was quite respectable politically. Nevertheless, it was refuted by scientists and left to gather dust for eighteen hundred years (although it resurfaced on a few occasions in the course of that time).

In short, the history of Greek science (particularly of empirical science) is not only the account of triumphs that it often appears to be. The invaluable information brought by Herodotus from the East was spurned by geographers. Heifetz' attempt to turn it into a value-based anachronism only compromises his own intellectual Euro-centrism and amusing faith in the uninterrupted advance of science.

D) The lifespan of Artemisia and Mausolus.

As we recall, Herodotus was born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus in Caria, Asia Minor. In his youth he was actively involved in the city's political life and was eventually exiled from there. There is no doubt that he was very well informed about the recent past of his native city. Thus his account of Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus, who ruled the city during the time of Xerxes and took the side of the Persians in the campaign of 480/479 BCE (during Herodotus' lifetime), appears to be an unremarkable and undeniably accurate detail from recent and actual military history.

Heifetz draws attention to the fact that Halicarnassus makes another appearance in the popular history of Greece -- this time in the middle of the fourth century BCE when Caria and its capital city of Halicarnassus were ruled by Mausolus -- a king/tyrant. According to numerous accounts of ancient historians, he died in 353 BCE. His contribution to the history of world architecture was a magnificent two-tiered tomb; hailed as one of the seven wonders of the world it gave birth to a new word -- mausoleum. According to Roman historians, its construction was begun by Mausolus' inconsolable widow Artemisia. The widow passed away four years later, but construction continued, to be completed long afterwards, during the reign of Mausolus' grandson.

Thus each of the two centuries (the fifth and the fourth centuries BCE) seems to have an Artemisia of its own. In Heifetz's opinion, this compromises at the very least one of the stories about Artemisia, probably the earlier one by Herodotus.

And yet there is nothing particularly confusing about this story. In Herodotus' History Artemisia is depicted as an independent, unmarried ruler of Halicarnassus at a time when there was no Mausolus -- either alive or dead -- in the city. Nevertheless, the name Mausolus does appear in Herodotus' books (5:118). It refers to one of the forebears of the Halicarnassus kings whose son, Pixodarus, took part in the uprising of the Ionian cities against Darius. Thus the name Mausolus was not unique -- on the contrary, it was a commonly used royal name in Greco-Carian Asia Minor. A king/tyrant bearing this name undoubtedly ruled Caria during the first half of the fourth century BCE. Heifetz was confused by the historians' report that this Mausolus had a wife by the name of Artemisia. Yet Artemisia was a rather popular women's name and it was also given to several geographic locations. The name was borne by countless women, both famous and unknown, in different places and different times -- up until the Renaissance. That is about the extent of the entire brouhaha.

E) Alexander, the king of Macedonia, in Herodotus' work.

Heifetz, who appears to be partial to this name, takes a minor Macedonian king from the mid-fifth century BCE (mentioned by Herodotus on several occasions), and tries to make him into Alexander the Great. I would have no difficulty in gathering all the passages where Herodotus mentions Alexander the son of Aminta, crown prince and later king of Macedonia (incidentally, Thucydides refers to him several times as the father of Perdicca, a Macedonian king during the time of the Peloponnesian War; a single such mention is enough to refute another of Heifetz's correspondences); however, I am quite loath to inflate this paper with uninteresting quotations. They depict an enterprising, unscrupulous prince who is capable of murdering Persian messengers in his own house and then, to ward off the impending diplomatic scandal, bribing the investigating Persian official and giving him the prince's own sister in marriage. This was a man who, not daring to resist the Persian army that had invaded Macedonia, went over to the side of the invaders, who collaborated with the Persians during the Greco-Persian campaign and even performed their diplomatic missions and who betrayed his masters on the very eve of the Battle of Plataea. A rather unsavory picture and a far cry from the godlike figure of Alexander the Great. It is highly unlikely, in spite of Heifetz's claim (which he makes without any supporting evidence whatsoever), that Herodotus had in mind the image of the great conqueror, especially if he was living at the Macedonian court at the time -- for it that were the case, he would have paid with his head.

F) The identity of two Hecataeuses.

I find it extremely difficult to grasp Heifetz's train of thought as he attempts to identify Hecataeus of Miletus as Hecataeus of Abdera -- primarily because he offers no arguments in support of this identity. In my opinion, it is much more difficult to establish a correspondence between those two than, say, between Louis XVI and Louis XI.

Hecataeus of Miletus, born in the sixth century BCE and died in the fifth century BCE, was a traveler, a prominent writer, a mythologist and a political figure in Ionia and its key city of Miletus. Even though hardly any of his works have survived, scientists from the Hellenistic period were well acquainted with them, and their echoes have reached us. Ancient bibliography credits him, above all, with writing Description of the Earth (a treatise that appears to have had a great deal in common with Herodotus' History) as well as Genealogies, which traced the ancestries of humans of divine descent. Fragments of those works have survived in the writings of various ancient authors. Herodotus, too, makes several references to Hecataeus. These references are invariably enlightening and pertinent, dealing with a broad range of subjects, such as revising the ancient Egyptian chronology, the anti-Persian strategy of Ionian cities and the removal of Miletian colonies.

Hecataeus of Abdera, a native of Thrace, lived at the turn of the third century BCE. According to some accounts he was the teacher of Pyrrho of Elea, the founder of the philosophical school of skepticism. There is no doubt that Hecataeus of Abdera spent a long time in Egypt, participating in the military campaigns of Ptholomy I Soter in Syria and accompanying him in his sailings along the Nile. His tour de force is a panoramic and rather apologetic description of Egypt, its history, religion and culture. It served as one of the main sources for a description of Egypt in part one of History by Diodorus of Sicily and thus, in a way, it has reached us as well. According to some accounts he wrote a treatise devoted to the works of Homer and Hesiodus. It is possible that he also wrote a separate work on the Jews, which was of considerable use to Diodorus and Josephus Flavius, yet this theory can hardly be considered proven. There is no doubt that the fragments from the works of Hecataeus of Abdera quoted by Flavius (assuming they are in any way authentic) were subjected to intense Jewish censorship. Then again, this hardly has any bearing on the question facetiously raised by Heifetz: in what way can Hacataeus of Abdera be identified as Hecateus of Miletius? I leave this issue to a more suitable occasion, having affirmed that the two have absolutely nothing in common " except for a name, of course. If Heifetz takes the trouble to substantiate his theory in some fashion we can return to this topic.

Whatever the case may be, Herodotus definitely did not live after Ctesius, Aristotle, or Alexander the Great, he was not a minor poet at the court of Antigonus nor did he create his own concept of the Peloponnesian War. His is a totally different history and different achievements. There is no doubt that Thucydides, Plutarch and many others were not overly fond of him, yet it is highly unlikely that Thucydides' brilliant scientific methodology could have emerged without the help of the "father of history" -- who earned this honorary title only four centuries after his death. In any case, by joining the enemies of Herodotus, Heifetz has found himself in pretty good company -- were it not for the fact that history has decreed otherwise.

[31] He would have been better off had he not done so. Not only is this discovery highly farfetched, it is also quite bizarre. Indeed, in Heifetz's view the Jewish festival of Purim was reduced for a long time to magophobia (which Heifetz immediately renames magopuria), i.e. the custom of killing any magus (a priest of the classical Persian cult) who ventured outside on a certain day of the year. A wonderful custom, invented and in no way denounced by Heifetz! The question of why the Persians let foreigners murder (or even persecute) their own priests each year remains open. However, if we only suppose for a moment that magophobia was an internal affair of the Persians themselves, we can find an accurate ethnological explanation for this phenomenon.

[32] I would have never believed my opponent capable of writing something like this were it not for the original text before me.

[33] In such a scenario, some of the workers who had carved the Behistun inscription could have theoretically still been living.

This gulf is in fact the Erythraean Sea itself, but it does not merit this title, since in this instance the title can be claimed by the Indian Ocean.

[35] Certainly not pro-Macedonian: unlike Heifetz, Herodotus cannot even conceive of the idea of Macedonian superiority. In his eyes, Macedonians are second-class Greeks at best.

[36] Thucydides' History comes to an abrupt end with the events that preceded Sparta's victory in the Peloponnesian War, but it was clearly completed by the author during the Spartan period. The same cannot be said about Herodotus' work, which is all Athens.

[37] One striking fact is that Herodotus resists the impulse to discuss the affairs of his contemporary, Persian king Artaxerxes, although he mentions him repeatedly. One possible reason for this reluctance is political caution, since at the time relations with Persian were of critical importance to Athens, as in fact to any city that lay claim to being the leader of all Greece.

[38] Heifetz is wrong in this instance as well.