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.
Heifetz fearlessly discovers the festival of Purim in the works of Herodotus
and Ctesius, 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
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!
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.
This time Heifetz becomes entangled in his historical reconstruction,
forgetting that it lists Darius as a rather late Persian king. A regrettable
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.
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.
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!
more interesting is the geographic exegesis, for in this instance the
Erythraean Sea clearly implies the Persian Gulf! Take this passage, for example
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
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.
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.
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:
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  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.
finally, the most striking example (4:37) -- referring to both the Indian Ocean
and the Persian Gulf:
Persians inhabit a country upon the Southern or Erythraean sea.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
begin with, let us ask ourselves: why did Heifetz need all this in the first
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.
what can we say in Herodotus' defense?
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.
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!
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.
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
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?
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
Herodotus knew too much about the Caspian Sea.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Alexander, the king of Macedonia, in Herodotus' work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
 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
 I would have never believed my opponent capable of
writing something like this were it not for the original text before me.
 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.
not pro-Macedonian: unlike Heifetz, Herodotus cannot even conceive of the idea
of Macedonian superiority. In his eyes, Macedonians are second-class Greeks at
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.
 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.
 Heifetz is
wrong in this instance as well.