1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hecataeus of Miletus

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HECATAEUS OF MILETUS (6th-5th century B.C.), Greek historian, son of Hegesander, flourished during the time of the Persian invasion. After having travelled extensively, he settled in his native city, where he occupied a high position, and devoted his time to the composition of geographical and historical works. When Aristagoras held a council of the leading Ionians at Miletus, to organize a revolt against the Persian rule, Hecataeus in vain tried to dissuade his countrymen from the undertaking (Herodotus v. 36, 125). In 494, when the defeated Ionians were obliged to sue for terms, he was one of the ambassadors to the Persian satrap Artaphernes, whom he persuaded to restore the constitution of the Ionic cities (Diod. Sic. x. 25). He is by some credited with a work entitled Γῆς περίοδος (“Travels round the Earth”), in two books, one on Europe, the other on Asia, in which were described the countries and inhabitants of the known world, the account of Egypt being especially comprehensive; the descriptive matter was accompanied by a map, based upon Anaximander’s map of the earth, which he corrected and enlarged. The authenticity of the work is, however, strongly attacked by J. Wells in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, xxix. pt. i. 1909. The only certainly genuine work of Hecataeus was the Γενεηλογίαι or Ἱστορίαι, a systematic account of the traditions and mythology of the Greeks. He was probably the first to attempt a serious prose history and to employ critical method to distinguish myth from historical fact, though he accepts Homer and the other poets as trustworthy authority. Herodotus, though he once at least controverts his statements, is indebted to Hecataeus not only for facts, but also in regard of method and general scheme, but the extent of the debt depends on the genuineness of the Γῆς περίοδος.

See fragments in C. W. Müller, Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum, i.; H. Berger, Geschichte der wissenschaftlichen Erdkunde der Griechen (1903); E. H. Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, i.; W. Mure, History of Greek Literature, iv.; especially J. V. Prašek, Hekataios als Herodots Quelle zur Geschichte Vorderasiens. Beiträge zur alten Geschichte (Klio), iv. 193 seq. (1904), and J. Wells in Journ. Hell. Stud., as above.