The Herodotean “Harem” and statecraft in Achaemenid Persia
By Frederick A. Schultz
Master of Arts Thesis, Ohio State University, 1993
Introduction: Any historian that seeks to use Herodotus as his primary source must beware of several possible pitfalls. In addition to the usual sorts of historiographical questions one must consider the ancient author’s historical context, possible motivations, and to what degree he relied on sources, one must bear in mind Herodotus’ particular style. Although frequently referred to as the Father of History, Herodotus is described best, perhaps as a proto-historian, more advanced than the simple ethnographer but not nearly so advanced as his more scientific and precise contemporary Thucydides.
…With this in mind my task is more difficult still, for I am using Herodotus, a Greek source ultimately Greek in nature despite any respect he displays for other regions or peoples, to describe a Persian political and social institution. Herodotus had never been to Persia though he had, most likely, been to Egypt. Therefore, anything he wrote about Persia and its customs, history, or political and social institutions was based on informants. How he understood his informants and conveyed that information to later generations must unfortunately remain a matter of some uncertainty; we neither have access to these sources of his, nor other examples of Herodotean type works with which to compare him. That is not to say, however, that Herodotus is impossible to work with, for I believe a careful reading of the Histories can provide an abundance of useful information, but he must be studied with the above observations in mind.