On the Malice of Herodotus

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On the Malice of Herodotus or On the Malignity of Herodotus (Greek: Περὶ τῆς Ἡροδότου κακοηθείας) is an essay by Plutarch criticizing the historian Herodotus for all manner of prejudice and misrepresentation in the latter's Histories. It has been called the "first instance in literature of the slashing review."[1] The 19th-century English historian George Grote considered this essay a serious attack upon the works of Herodotus, and speaks of the "honourable frankness which Plutarch calls his malignity."[2] Plutarch makes some palpable hits, catching Herodotus out in various errors, but it is also probable that it was merely a rhetorical exercise, in which Plutarch plays devil's advocate to see what could be said against so favourite and well-known a writer.[3] Some scholars however have dismissed the essay as the work of a Pseudo-Plutarch, "full of the most futile accusations of every kind",[4] in which the author merely establishes his own malignity,[5] and whose "calumnious fictions" were inspired by wounded Theban patriotism (Thebes is treated unflatteringly in The Histories).[6] According to another Plutarch scholar, R. H. Barrow, Herodotus' real failing in Plutarch's eyes was to criticize the city-states that saved Greece from Persia. "Plutarch," he concluded, "is fanatically biased in favor of the Greek cities; they can do no wrong."[7]


  1. ^ Kimball, Roger. "Plutarch & the issue of character". The New Criterion Online. Retrieved 2006-12-11.
  2. ^ Grote, George (2000-10-19) [1830]. A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 BC. Routledge. p. 203.
  3. ^ Aubrey Stewart, George Long. "Life of Plutarch". Plutarch's Lives, Volume I (of 4). The Gutenberg Project. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
  4. ^ William Smith, A New Classical Dictionary, Harper and Brothers (1851) page 366 digitalized version
  5. ^ A. D.Godley, Herodotus, Loeb Classical Library (1920), page xiv digitalized version
  6. ^ George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus Vol. I, D. Appleton and Co. (1859), pages 13–14 digitalized version
  7. ^ Barrow, R. H. (1979) [1967]. Plutarch and His Times.

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