I'm looking for information re: the earliest versions of Herodotus's Histories.

The two versions used on the Wikipedia page for Herodotus's Histories both trace back to Godley's translation. Godley's translation is based on Stein's translation. Stein's translation is in German, which I don't read. It may contain a reference to an earlier source, but I wouldn't know. Any ideas?

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    Welcome to History:SE Are you looking for the earliest surviving manuscripts / fragments of Herodotus' Histories, or the primary sources used by Herodotus? Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:47
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    I think I've edited the title to represent your question, but I'm not sure - can you verify? The primary source for Herodotus' Histories is Herodotus; you're looking for the Greek original, not a translation? Perhaps I just misunderstand "primary source"?
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:50
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    @PieterGeerkens - Are you actually suggesting using Google Translator on the original ancient Greek? I tried using that a couple of decades ago on an email I had gotten in French, and ended up writing a long detailed technical reply to someone's automated out-of-office email message. I sure hope its gotten better since.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:52
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    @T.E.D.: No, on the Stein's translation to determine the next source back. OP states: "Stein's translation is in German, which I don't read." It's not like OP is looking for nuance - just another link in the derivation chain. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 16:00
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    Would a more accurate title of the question be "Where can I find Herodotus' Histories in the actual Greek?", or perhaps, "Where can I find scholarly criticism of Godley's translation of Herototus' Histories?" (I think this is probably a very good question, diminished by confusion over what is being asked. That's why I'm a stickler for clear titles).
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


For a critical discussion on how modern versions of Herodotus' Histories have been compiled from the surviving manuscript sources, you could do a lot worse worse than the 1983 essay On Editing Herodotus by R. A. McNeal.

This includes a useful overview of the merits of the various surviving copies and partial copies of the text.

Essentially, the problem is that no totally complete manuscript of Herodotus' Histories survives. Furthermore, none of the early manuscripts that do survive completely agree on the text (mainly due to scribal copying errors and selective editing in medieval scriptoria). The earliest surviving copy, "called 'Codex A", is owned by the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence and forms the basis for all modern translations.

The principal surviving manuscripts for Herodotus' Histories are assigned letters. The earliest examples (dating to the 10th - 14th centuries) are:

  • A Florence, Laurentian 70, 3. - 10th Century CE
  • B 'Codex Angelicanus', (named for the library in Rome where it is currently held, but previously known as the Passioneus manuscript). - 11th Century CE
  • D Vatican graecus 2369. 11th / 12th Century CE
  • R Vatican graecus 123. A composite manuscriptdating to the 14th Century CE
  • S The "Sancroftianus" (named for its former owner, Archbishop Sancroft). 14th Century CE
  • U Rome, Vatican Urbinas 88. 14th Century CE
  • C Florence, Laurentian conventi soppressi 207. 11th Century CE
  • E Paris, BNF suppl. 134. (Also contains extracts of Plutarch and Diogenes Laertius). 13th Century CE
  • P Paris, BNF gr. 1633. 14th Century CE

In addition to the manuscripts, we have a number of much earlier fragments of the texts written on Papyrus. None of the papyrus fragments contain the full text. Most contain just fragments of single pages. Most are part of the collection of fragments known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, for which a searchable database is now available online.

I haven't been able to find images for most of these online, but the main examples that I'm aware of are:

  • P.Oxy 1619 - late 1st Century CE
  • P.Oxy 1375 - 1st-2nd Century CE

P.Oxy 1375 - 1st-2nd Century CE

(P.Oxy 1375 - 1st-2nd Century CE - Image source - Photographic Archive of Papyri in the Cairo Museum)

  • P.Oxy 2099 - Early 2nd Century CE

P.Oxy 2099 - Early 2nd Century CE

(P.Oxy 2099 - Early 2nd Century CE - Image source - Wikimedia)

  • P.Oxy 1092 - 2nd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 1244 - 2nd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 2095 - 2nd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 2097 - 2nd Century CE

P.Oxy 2097 - 2nd Century CE

(P.Oxy 2097 - 2nd Century CE - image source - Oxyrhynchus Online)

  • P.Oxy 2096 - Late 2nd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 2098 - Late 2nd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 19 - 2-3rd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 18 - 3rd Century CE
  • P.Oxy 695 - 3rd Century CE

Other important papyri include:

The images above illustrate just how little of the material is actually found on many of these fragments!


Thanks to @kimchilover for finding the image of P.Oxy 2099.

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    P.Oxy 2099 - Early 2nd Century CE is shown at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus#/media/… Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 20:57
  • @kimchilover Thank you for that. I've edited it into the answer. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 21:21
  • @sempaiscuba Thanks for your explanation. It's possible to determine these Papyri are belong to Herodotus? Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 14:29
  • How Herodotus sit in Greek and write history of Persia in about 4000 km long way? Also about other territories? Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 14:29
  • @BarzanHayati Isn't that covered in the article on Herodotus' Histories that I linked at the start of my answer? Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 14:59

There are early 1500's editions of Herodotus: see the wikipedia article about their publisher Aldus Manutius. That article refers to

Works published from the Greeks. Manutius printed thirty editiones principes of Greek texts, allowing these texts to escape the fragility of the manuscript tradition.

and the wikipedia page about Herodotus has an illustration of the kind of fragility in question. (But not of a bit of writing Aldus used.)

Going further back in time: my local uni's library has a copy of a 1475 Latin translation, printed by Arnold Pannartz. The 1911 Britannica article on H says

The history of Herodotus has been translated by many persons and into many languages. About 1450, at the time of the revival of learning, a Latin version was made and published by Laurentius Valla. This was revised in 1537 by Heusbach, and accompanies the Greek text of Herodotus in many editions. The first complete translation into a modern language was the English one of Littlebury, published in 1737...

But of course as many commentators here have pointed out, these printed editions appeared about 2,000 years after Herodotus lived. Nothing like a "primary source" (whatever you mean by that) survives.

  • +1, however, I believe primary sources in translation are still primary unless the source language composition itself is the subject of study. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:27
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    @AaronBrick "Primary source" for Herodotus would usually mean his primary sources: the documents, interviews, etc, he relied on in writing his book 2,500 years ago. Those are long gone. Who knows what the OP means by the term. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:35
  • Thank you, I stand corrected. Perhaps the OP wanted Herodotus's own bibliography? Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:52
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    I don't have time to check, but I seem to remember that H often gives sources for his statements. Not up to MLA Style Sheet standards, but he says such-and-such is told by knowledgeable Persians, and that the inscription on the temple says so-and-so. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 19:14

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