Herodotus (c.484 – c.425 BCE) is commonly hailed as the Father of History. He wrote the Histories in the 5th century BCE and it’s long been widely considered a foundational work of Western history.

The text is attributed to the C5th BCE.
The earliest papyrus of it dates to the C1st CE.
The earliest MS of it dates to the C10th CE.

This means there’s approximately 500 years between the original and the earliest papyrus.
Also that there’s appx. 1300 years between the original and the earliest MS.
Lastly, the latest papyrus dates to the C4th CE, leaving a gap of about 600 years between the most recent papyrus and the oldest MS.

History of the Text

What follows is a brief account of the transmission of Herodotus’ History from its supposed creation through today. I think the key points (anything prior to the C14th or C15th) are highly speculative and deserve more attention.

C5th BCE: Herodotus’ History was written. A discussion about the form of the text at the time of original transmission was had by McNeal.[7, p.125]

At some point the Alexandrian text was created but I’m not sure when this is believed to have been.[7, p.129]

Maybe C2nd-C3rd CE: Codices began to be created based on the papyrus rolls.[7, p.127]

C3rd CE: Pap. Amherst II 12 (MP3 483) is the earliest dated source we have for what the Alexandrian text might have looked like and all it contains is part of a commentary on the Histories that is attributed to Aristarchus (C3rd BCE).[8, p.175]

Probably C9th: The majuscule codex was used to create miniscule codices by somebody in Constantinople.[7, p.128]

“Unfortunately we cannot precisely date most of these changes. … The history of the text before the creation of the Laurentianus 70.3 is still largely a closed book.”
R. A. McNeal (1983)[7, p.129]

c.1455: For the first time ever, Lorenzo Valla made Herodotus available for the wider Latin speaking world.[8, p.213]

C15th: There were “…only two complete Latin translations…”.[8, p.215] It was in the latter half of the C15th that Herodotus was for the first time systematically introduced into early modern academic curriculums. This was done in Ferrara, Italy, and ever since, Herodotus has maintained his position in the school systems. Matteo Maria Boiardo (1440-1494) created the first full translation of the History into a vernacular language. It was in Italian and the project was funded by the House of Este.[8, p.232]

1846: For the first time ever, Herodotus’ History became available for the Spanish speaking world.[3, p.235]


Pearse listed 18 papyri fragments that he claims are all from a single page. They date to the 1st-4th centuries.[1] I think maybe his wording confusing because I’d be surprised if a single page was written on over the course of 400 years and then it fragmented into this collection.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are numbers: 18, 19, 695, 1092, 1244, 1375, 1619, 2095, 2096, 2097, 2098, and 2099. The papyri were all discovered during the 19th and 20th centuries and have no provenance between then and their alleged dates of creation.

There are 6 papyri aside from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. These need to be looked into more before any final conclusions can be made. Based on my brief review, I’m inclined to believe they were not known about prior to the 19th century.

According to Tribulato, the papyri aren’t too different than the MSS, but “…none of the papyri completely agrees with either branch.”, that is either branch of MSS.[8, p.171-172]

How were the papyri dated?


McNeal said A, B, D, and R constitute the primary MSS.[7, p.111] Pearse said AB are better than DRSU.[1]

A is the best of the Florentine family of MSS and R or D are the best of the Roman family.[7, p.120]

I think Olga Tribulato, in Priestley & Zali (2016), made an error and reversed the members of the manuscript families. They also use the siglum V in place of U. Why? They organized the codices as:
Roman: AB
Florentine: DRSV[8, p.171]

The two main groups that the MSS are split into are the Florentine (AB) and Roman (DRSU) families. CE are similar to AB. P is somewhat of an outlier.[1]

MSS by Siglum

A – Florence, Laurentian 70, 3. (C10th CE)

B – Codex Angelicanus, previously known as Passioneus (C11th CE)

C – Flaurentian conventi soppressi 207 (C11th CE)

D – Vatican graecus 2369 (C11th/12th CE)

E – Paris, BNF suppl. 134 (C13th CE)

P – Paris, BNF gr. 1633 (C14th CE)

R – Vatican graecus 123 (C14th CE)

S – The “Sancroftianus” (C14th CE)

U – Vatincan Urbinas 88 (C14th CE)

MSS by Creation Date

E is listed twice below because Pearse gave the C13th date[1] and the BnF gave the C14th date.[10]

C10th: A

C11th: B, C

C11th/12th: D

C13th: E

C14th: E, P, R, S, U

MSS by Earliest Provenance

A siglum with a question mark after it means that the provenance is questionable.

C17th: B (?)

C18th: A (?), B (?)

C19th: E (?)

MSS Notes

AFlorence, Laurentian 70, 3

Florence, Laurentian 70, 3 is also known by its shelfmark, Plut.70.3.[2] The library offered no provenance information about this MS. When did they obtain it? When was it dated?

“The first to use the testimony of the Medicean ms. was J. Gronovius (Herodoti Halicarnassei Historiarum Libri IX, Lugd. Bat., 1715).”
R. A. McNeal (1983)[7, p.111]

Is Laurentianus 70.3 the Medicean ms.?

– Florence, Laurentian 70, 3[1]
– Plut.70.3[2]
– Laurentianus 70.3[7, p.111]
– Laur. 70.3[7, p.112]

B – Codex Angelicanus

Codex Angelicanus was previously known as Passioneus, the last name of a previous owner of it, Domenico Silvio Passionei (1682-1761). When and where did he obtain this manuscript? When was the new name assigned? Also, “The first quaternion, and most of the second, have been lost and replaced in the 14th century.”[1]

Chapter divisions were established by Jungermann in 1608.[7, p.113]

– Codex Angelicanus (formerly Passioneus)[1]
– Romanus bibliothecae Angelicanae Augustinorum[7, p.112]

C – Flaurentian conventi soppressi 207

Pearse noted that folios 9-14 were written in a (probably C15th) hand that differed from the rest of the MS.[1]

I think I found it listed on the official website of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana as Conv. Soppr. 207. However, it did not contain a link or any additional information, unlike some of the other MSS on the page.[4]

D – Vatican graecus 2369

I think its proper shelfmark would be Vat.gr.2369.

The official Vatican Library’s website has a link supposedly to digitized MSS but when I checked the links to the various MSS, all I found were their Bibliographies. Vat.gr.2369 was not listed among the “digitized” Greek MSS,[5] but I did find its bibliography elsewhere on the Vatican Libary’s website.[6]

– Vatican graecus 2369[1]
– Vat.gr.2369

E – Paris, BNF suppl. 134

Possibly noticed by Carl Benedict Hase in the 19th century?[9]

It can be viewed here: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b110049605/f1.item. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021.

– Paris, BNF suppl. 134[1]
– Supplément grec 134[9]
– suppl. gr., 0134[10]


C19th: Stein’s 1869-71 (1884 revision) edition became the standard text.[7, p.110]

“It is unsettling to realize that even after so many editions of the Histories (over 35 in the 19th century alone) we are still not in a position to know the best manuscripts precisely, that our apparatus are full of false readings.”
R. A. McNeal (1983)[7, p.114]

C20th: McNeal mentioned the only two C20th critical editions (Hude’s and Legrand’s) of Herodotus that he knew of. Both were based on Stein’s editions.[7, p.110]

More Reading

These are works which I think would be useful but which I have yet to review:

Roman Family

Cantore, R. (2013) Per la storia del testo di Erodoto: Studi sulla famiglia romana. Bologna: Pàtron


Olivieri, A. (2004) Erodoto nel Rinascimento: l’umano e la storia. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

Varotti, C. (2012) “La leggenda e la storia: Erodoto nella storiografia fra Quattrocento e primo Cinquecento”, in Gambino Longo (2012) 99–125.

Pagliaroli, S. (2006a) L’Erodoto del Valla. Messina: Centro Interdepartimentale di Studi Umanistici.



[1] – Roger Pearse, “Some manuscript traditions of the Greek classics” (2008?). http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manuscripts/greek_classics.htm#Herodotus. Accessed 28 Mar. 2021.

[2] – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Digital Repository. http://mss.bmlonline.it/s.aspx?Id=AWOItLNNI1A4r7GxML8h&c=Herodotus#/book. Accessed 28 Mar. 2021.

[3] – REICHENBERGER, ARNOLD G. “Herodotus in Spain: Comments on a Neglected Essay (1949) by Maria Rosa Lida De Malkiel.” Romance Philology, vol. 19, no. 2, 1965, pp. 235–249. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44940124. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

[4] – The Official Website of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. “Reverse manuscripts”. https://www.bmlonline.it/en/la-biblioteca/manoscritti-della-riserva/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

[5] – Vatican Library. “Digitized Manuscripts”. http://www.mss.vatlib.it/guii/scan/link1.jsp?fond=Vat.gr.. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

[6] – Vatican Library. “Digitized Manuscripts”. http://www.mss.vatlib.it/guii/console?service=present&term=@5Vat.gr.2369_ms&item=1&add=0&search=1&filter=&relation=3&operator=&attribute=3040. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

[7] – McNeal, R. A. “ON EDITING HERODOTUS.” L’Antiquité Classique, vol. 52, 1983, pp. 110–129. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41653215 . Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

[8] – Priestley, J., & Zali, V. (Eds.). (2016). Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond. doi:10.1163/9789004299849. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021.

[9] – BnF. “Archives et manuscrits: Supplément grec 134”. https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc8896v. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021.

[10] – France, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Supplément grec 134. https://portail.biblissima.fr/fr/ark:/43093/mdata443a077837306d508b4bee81d437ef3daa289ff6. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021.

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2 Comments on “Herodotus

  1. Hi Stephen
    I found this interesting book:
    Description: Florence, 1475. Collection of translations of Greek works in the traditions of Plato and Pythagoras, originally translated into Latin mostly in Florence in the 1460s and 1470s, with various connections to the Accademia platonica under the auspices of Cosimo de’ Medici. The manuscript is in 2 sections: the first is a group of works translated by Marsilio Ficino for Johannes Cavalcanti (both members of the Accademia), including De Platonis definitionibus by Speusippus and an epitome of Plato’s works by Alcinous, which were first available in Greek in Florence in 1462. The second includes short works by Lucian of Samosata, translated by Antonio Pacini, also known as Tudertinus, for Rodolfo Lotto and Petrus Pazus (Piero Pazzi?); a work on friendship by Plutarch, translated by Guarino Veronese, an early humanist student and teacher of Greek, for his patron Leonello d’Este; and a work on Virgil by Cristoforo Landini (another member of the Accademia). Occasional marginal notes in multiple hands.

    I’m wondering if this is a trial translaion of the “original” works mentioned here?
    I have found some others

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not entirely clear on what you’re wondering about. If you’re wondering if possibly the book you linked is what one or more of the MSS listed in this article are based upon, I can say it’s possible but only because I’m not familiar enough with these MSS to say it’s not possible.

      It would be worthwhile to establish the provenance for these MSS. Unfortunately I do not have the time to do so at the moment and I lack the finances to hire someone else to help. I do have an article on how to do provenance research should you or anyone reading this care to attempt to conduct it as a volunteer – https://ctruth.today/2020/08/02/how-to-do-provenance-research/

      Please do let me know if this answers your comment. I’m willing to chat more with you on this if you still have questions


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