484 - 424 BC (Greek Geographer & Historian)
"And I laugh to see how many
have before now drawn maps of the world, not one of them reasonably; for they
draw the world as round as if fashioned by compasses, encircled by the Ocean river,
and Asia and Europe of a like extent. For myself, I will in a few words
indicate the extent of the two, and how each should be drawn." (Herodotus,
- Herodotus was a Greek wrote his geographic histories
around 484-424 BC.
- Herodotus is called the "Father of History",
who was also an ancient geographer who made a lot of major mistakes.
- However, he is one of the oldest known geographers.
- Herodotus clearly refers to cities and mountains in the
Nile Delta west of the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez.
- Some use this a proof that Mount Sinai and be in the
Modern Sinai Peninsula but this is a fiction.
- For these people fight against Mt. Sinai being where the
Bible says it is, Saudi Arabia, they are content to put it ANYWHERE,
including Egypt proper.
- We have supplied three maps based directly upon the
writings of a Greek geographer and historian named Herodotus who lived in
- Like Hesiod and Hecataeus his predecessors, he possessed
a shallow concept of Israel and has a vague understanding of the Red sea
and wrongly viewed it at as a single finger of water.
- Apart from the Bible's clear references to Arabia as a
geographic place in 1000 BC (2 Chronicles 9:14) Herodotus is the oldest
secular historian who records the region of Arabia, some 550 years after
- Herodotus calls the Red Sea by the colour RED not the sea
- "there is a gulf extending inland from the sea
called Red" (Herodotus, Hist. 2.11.1)
- No ancient author ever called any freshwater lake a
"Sea of Reeds". Those who say so are perpetuating a fiction to
prop up wrong and failing exodus routes at or near the Bitter lakes.
- Although we do not have any actual maps of Herodotus,
people have gone to great lengths to create maps based directly on his
writings. Below are a few examples. Looking at these modern
reconstructions, we immediately notice two glaring problems with his
geography that modern cartographers accurately drew.
- First the Red sea is a single finger of water that does
not split into the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba.
- Second, there is no reference to Israel except perhaps
"Philistina" (Philistines), Judah or the Jewish nation anywhere
in Herodotus' writings. The map reflects this and only notes Phoenicia.
Herodotus being a pagan Roman living in modern Italy, must have
deliberately ignored Israel for some unknown reason.
- Herodotus tells us that his geography is based upon a
second hand report from another and not first hand experience:
- "Thus I give credit to those from whom I received
this account of Egypt" (2:12)
- "Concerning the nature of the river [Nile], I was
not able to gain any information either from the priests or from
- Herodotus also discusses how God destroyed Sennacherib's
army confirming the text of 2 Kings 19:35-36.
- Although he wrote his six books in 450 BC, the earliest
actual manuscripts of Herodotus are dated 900 AD.
- That means there is a span of 1350 years between when the
book was written and the earliest actual hard copies that are extant.
- There are 8 different manuscripts of Herodotus, the
oldest being dated from 900 AD.
- We need to remember that the manuscripts of Herodotus'
history likely contain changes as do other ancient works.
- For example, Agatharchides of Cnidus wrote, "On
the Erythraean Sea" in 169 BC, has been reconstructed from three
other ancient authors: Diodorus (49 BC), Strabo (15 AD), Photius (897
- The original script of Agatharchides, often has three
widely varying readings or "fragments".
- This is instructive because Photius, who lived in 900 AD
(the same time as the oldest manuscript of Herodotus) greatly changed and
embellished with his own comments of Agatharchides words when compared to
the older versions of Diodorus and Strabo.
- Of course none of the three agree and contain many
- This contrasts with the Bible, where we have a complete
copy from 325AD and over 50,000 manuscripts. The variation between all
the manuscripts is very slight.
- What this means, is that later copyists may have inserted
the post 135 AD name of "Palaistinę" into Herodotus' work. In
any case, it is clear that Herodotus used "Palaistinę" to refer
to everything from Syria to Egypt, including Israel.
- Other ancient geographers said that Arabia was directly
next to Goshen in Egypt because after 106 AD Caesar annexed the modern
Sinai Peninsula and renamed it "Arabia.
- Probably both the words "Arabia" and
"Palaistinę" were glosses added to reflect post third century
AD geography and terminology.
- Summary of errors made by Herodotus:
- He has zero concept of the Gulf of Aqaba.
- Herodotus' prehistoric "GHOST GULF"
I. Herodotus had no idea
"GULF OF AQABA" even existed:
- Herodotus had zero concept of the Gulf of Aqaba.
- Herodotus tells us that he relied on second hand
- "Thus I give credit to those from whom I received
this account of Egypt" (2:12)
- "Concerning the nature of the river [Nile], I was
not able to gain any information either from the priests or from
- This is one reason why he seems to place Arabia so near
- He draws the entire Red Sea as a single finger without
knowledge of the Sinai Peninsula or the Gulf of Aqaba.
- Had he known about the Gulf of Aqaba, he would have
placed Arabia further away.
- Even so, Herodotus clearly places Arabia in the area of
the Arabian Peninsula both south and to the east towards Assyria.
II. Herodotus' prehistoric
- Herodotus had no idea the Gulf of Aqaba existed but
describes his prehistoric "phantom gulf":
- "For of the rivers that brought down the stuff to
make these lands, there is none worthy to be compared for greatness with
even one of the mouths of the Nile, and the Nile has five mouths. 
There are also other rivers, not so great as the Nile, that have had
great effects; I could rehearse their names, but principal among them is
the Achelous, which, flowing through Acarnania and emptying into the sea,
has already made half of the Echinades Islands mainland.   Now in
Arabia, not far from Egypt, there is a gulf extending inland from the sea called Red, whose length and width are such
as I shall show:  in length, from its inner end out to the wide sea,
it is a forty days’ voyage for a ship rowed by oars; and in breadth, it
is half a day’s voyage at the widest. Every day the tides ebb and flow in
it.  [Herodotus describes his 20,000 years
earlier PREHISTORIC PHANTOM GULF]: I believe that where Egypt
is now, there was once another such gulf;
this extended from the northern sea towards Aethiopia [Mediterranean
south to Ethiopia], and the other, the Arabian gulf [Gulf of Suez] of
which I shall speak, extended from the south towards Syria [after
extending south to Ethiopia it curled around and headed north west]; the
ends of these gulfs penetrated into the country near each other, and but
a little space of land separated them [the phantom and Suez gulfs almost
touched].  Now, if the Nile inclined to direct its current into this
Arabian gulf, why should the latter not be silted up by it inside of twenty thousand years? In fact, I expect that it
would be silted up inside of ten thousand years. Is it to be doubted,
then, that in the ages before my birth a gulf even much greater than this
should have been silted up by a river so great and so busy?   As
for Egypt, then, I credit those who say it, and myself very much believe
it to be the case; for I have seen that Egypt projects into the sea
beyond the neighboring land, and shells are exposed to view on the
mountains, and things are coated with salt, so that even the pyramids
show it, and the only sandy mountain in Egypt is that which is above
Memphis;  besides, Egypt is like neither the neighboring land of
Arabia nor Libya, not even like Syria (for Syrians inhabit the seaboard
of Arabia); it is a land of black and crumbling earth, as if it were
alluvial deposit carried down the river from Aethiopia;  but we know that the soil of Libya is redder and
somewhat sandy, and Arabia and Syria are lands of clay and stones."
(Herodotus, Hist. 2.10.2-12.3)
- Herodotus speculates that geologically, in some ancient
time (20,000 years ago), there was a second Gulf that started on the
Mediterranean and extended south towards Ethopia, then circled through the
Nile Delta travelling northwest to almost touch the Gulf of Suez.
- This "ghost gulf" as we call it is known to be
geologically false and he was totally wrong.
- Some people wrongly think the ghost gulf that almost
touches the Gulf of Suez describes the Gulf of Suez touching the Gulf of
- "the two gulfs ran into the
land so as almost to meet each other, and left between them only a very
narrow tract of country" (2:11).
- One of these two Gulfs was the Gulf of Suez and the other
was the Ghost gulf to the west and they came together and almost touched.
- Some people fail to notice this is ghost gulf (which if
it did exist in some distant time in the past was west of the Gulf of
- Herodotus had no idea the Gulf of Aqaba even existed and
this is why he seems to say in some places that Arabia is east of the Gulf
- He clearly places Arabia far to the south.
III. The Suez Canal:
- The first canal was dug under the reign of Senausret III,
Pharao of Egypt (1887-1849 BC) linking the Mediterranean Sea in the north
with the Red sea in the south via the river Nile and its branches.
- The Canal often abandoned to silting and was successfully
reopened to navigation by Sity I (1310 BC), Necho
II (610 BC), Persian King Darius (522 BC), Polemy II (285 BC), Emperor
Trajan (117 AD) and Amro Ibn Elass (640 AD), following the Islamic
- Herodotus mentions Pharaoh Nico II building the Suez
Canal: "Psammetichus had a son, Necos, who became king of
Egypt. It was he who began building the canal into
the Red Sea, which was finished by Darius the Persian. This is four
days’ voyage in length, and it was dug wide enough for two triremes [war
ships] to move in it rowed abreast.  It is fed by the Nile, and is
carried from a little above Bubastis by the Arabian
town of Patumus [Pithom, Tell el-Maskhuta]; it issues into the Red
Sea. Digging began in the part of the Egyptian plain nearest to Arabia;
the mountains that extend to Memphis (the mountains where the stone
quarries are) come close to this plain;  the canal is led along the
foothills of these mountains in a long reach from west to east; passing
then into a ravine, it bears southward out of the hill country towards the
Arabian Gulf.  Now the shortest and most direct passage from the
northern to the southern or Red Sea is from the Casian promontory, the
boundary between Egypt and Syria, to the Arabian Gulf, and this is a
distance of one hundred and twenty five miles, neither more nor less; 
this is the most direct route, but the canal is far longer, inasmuch as it
is more crooked. In Necos’ reign, a hundred and twenty thousand Egyptians
died digging it. Necos stopped work, stayed by a prophetic utterance that
he was toiling beforehand for the barbarian. The Egyptians call all men of
other languages barbarians.   Necos, then, stopped work on the
canal and engaged in preparations for war; some of his ships of war were
built on the northern sea, and some in the Arabian Gulf, by the Red Sea
coast: the winches for landing these can still be seen." (Herodotus,
- "This canal ran from near Tel Basta (Bubastis)
apparently to Suez. Inscriptions recording Darius’ construction of it have
been found in the neighborhood." (Herodotus, translators footnote,
IV. Herodotus ignores
Israel: "Syrians of Palestine"
- Herodius' references to Palestine:
- "From there they marched against Egypt: and when
they were in the part of Syria called Palestine,
Psammetichus king of Egypt met them and persuaded them with gifts and
prayers to come no further." (Herodotus, Hist. 1.105.1)
- "The Phoenicians and the Syrians
of Palestine acknowledge that they learned the custom from the
Egyptians" (Herodotus, Hist. 2.104.3)
- "As to the pillars that Sesostris, king of Egypt,
set up in the countries, most of them are no longer to be seen. But I
myself saw them in the Palestine district of
Syria, with the aforesaid writing and the women’s private parts on
them." (Herodotus, Hist. 2.106.1)
- "Now the only apparent way of entry into Egypt is
this. The road runs from Phoenicia as far as the borders of the city of
Cadytis [Gaza], which belongs to the so-called Syrians
of Palestine. (Herodotus, Hist. 3.5.1–2)
- Herodotus called the land of Israel "Palestine"
(ie. Philistines) in 450 BC.
- Herodotus did write of "palaistine" in Greek,
however, he was not referring to "palestine".
- The Philistines have an occupational presence in Canaan
that dates back to the time of Abraham.
- "Palaistine" referred to the land of the
- He wrote of "palaistine syrine"--the
Philistines of Syria--which was a limited area near the southwestern
coast of Israel.
- History shows that it was Hadrian who renamed the land of
Israel "Palestine" [ie. the land of the Philistines] in 135 AD.
Hadrian's intent was to wipe out all traces of the Jews. The fact
he gave Jerusalem a new name, "Colonia Aelia Capitolina" and
the land a new name "Palestine".
- This proves above all that the land of the Jews was not
called Palestine in the first century in a formal sense, for if it was,
Hadrian would never have used a name already associated with the Jews.
- The apostolic fathers reflect this change in their
writings. Herodotus used the term Palaistinę to describe not just the
geographical area where the Philistines lived, but the entire area
between Phoenicia and Egypt, including the promised land of Israel.
- Herodotus actually tells us that he did not travel
personally to either Egypt or Israel and relied upon second hand accounts
- He was aware of the Jews, though, since he says that the
inhabitants of "Palaistinę" were circumcised but he also says
that there were other nations as well:
- "The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine
acknowledge that they learned the custom from the Egyptians, and the
Syrians of the valleys of the Thermodon and the Parthenius, as well as
their neighbors the Macrones, say that they learned it lately from the
Colchians. These are the only nations that
circumcise, and it is seen that they do just as the Egyptians. 
But as to the Egyptians and Ethiopians themselves, I cannot say which
nation learned it from the other; for it is evidently a very ancient
custom." (Hdt., Hist. 2.104.3–4)
- On the other hand, later copyists may have inserted the
post 135 AD name of "Palaistinę" into Herodotus' work. In any
case, it is clear that Herodotus used "Palaistinę" to refer to
everything from Syria to Egypt, including Israel.
V. Herodotus did not put
Arabia in the Nile Delta and West of the Red Sea (Arabian Gulf)
- Herodotus understood that Arabia proper, "the
nation" was nowhere near Egypt:
- "Again, Arabia is the most
distant to the south of all inhabited countries: and this is the
only country which produces frankincense and myrrh and casia and cinnamon
and gum-mastich. All these except myrrh are difficult for the Arabians to
get." (Herodotus, Hist. 3.107.1)
- "On this peninsula live thirty nations. This is the
first peninsula. But the second, beginning with Persia, stretches to the
Red Sea, and is Persian land; and next, the neighboring land of Assyria;
and after Assyria, Arabia; this peninsula ends (not truly but only by
common consent) at the Arabian Gulf, to which Darius brought a canal from
the Nile." (Hdt., Hist. 4.38.2–39.1)
- Some type in the word "Arabia" on the internet
to find places where Herodotus seems to locate Arabia immediately east of
the Suez Canal/Gulf of Suez in the Sinai Peninsula to save their pet Mount
Sinai location in the Sinai Peninsula.
- This kind of sloppy "word text-proofing"
usually misses the context.
- For example Herodotus calls Pithon in the Eastern Nile
Delta beside Goshen, AN ARABIAN TOWN! "Arabian town of Patumus
[Pithom, Tell el-Maskhuta, near Goshen]" (Herodotus, History
- Is Arabia now inside the Nile Delta? Of course not. So
context is everything. But wait! Herodotus actually does view the area
west of the Red Sea (Arabian Gulf) as being Arabia in some sense! So yes,
context is everything.
- What proves too much proves nothing at all!!!
- Not a single reference below refers to any part of the
- Herodotus says Arabia (or Arabians, Arabian city) is in
the Nile Delta and the mountain range 15 miles south and east of the
Pyramids running down the WESTERN shore of the Gulf of Aqaba.
- For those twisting and contorting the words of Herodotus
to make him say the Sinai Peninsula was in his mind ARABIA, they are in
for a "truth shock".
- Herodotus' Mountains of Arabia are west of the Red Sea
(Arabian Gulf). These mountains are not in Arabia they are in Egypt. They
are call Arabian mountain because they flank the border with Arabia on the
other side of the Red Sea. We all understand that Donald Trump's
"Mexican Wall" is on US soil. Even if the Mexicans paid for it
after all just like Trump promised!
- "To some, he assigned the task of dragging stones
from the quarries in the Arabian mountains to
the Nile; and after the stones were ferried across the river in boats, he
organized others to receive and drag them to the mountains called Libyan.
 They worked in gangs of a hundred thousand men, each gang for three
months. For ten years the people wore themselves out building the road
over which the stones were dragged, work which was in my opinion not much
lighter at all than the building of the pyramid" (Hdt., Hist.
- "Beyond [to the south] and above Heliopolis (5 km
east of the great Pyramids of Giza), Egypt is a narrow land. For it is bounded on the one side by the mountains of Arabia,
which run north to south, always running south towards the sea called the
Red Sea. In these mountains are the quarries that were hewn out
for making the pyramids at Memphis. This way, then, the mountains run,
and end in the places of which I have spoken; their greatest width from
east to west, as I learned by inquiry, is a two months’ journey, and
their easternmost boundaries yield frankincense.  Such are these
mountains. On the side of Libya, Egypt is bounded
by another range of rocky mountains among which are the pyramids;
these are all covered with sand, and run in the same direction as those
Arabian hills that run southward.  Beyond Heliopolis, there is no
great distance—in Egypt, that is: the narrow land has a length of only
fourteen days’ journey up the river. Between the aforesaid mountain
ranges, the land is level, and where the plain is narrowest it seemed to
me that there were no more than thirty miles
between the Arabian mountains and those that are called Libyan.
Beyond this Egypt is a wide land again. (Herodotus, Hist. 2.8.1-3)
- Herodotus calls Pithon in the Eastern Nile Delta beside
Goshen, AN ARABIAN TOWN!
- "Arabian town of Patumus [Pithom, Tell el-Retaba,
near Goshen]" (Herodotus, History 2.158.2)
- When those bent on keeping Mt. Sinai out of Saudi Arabia
quote ancient historians who say Hebrew Goshen in Egypt was in fact
Arabia, you wonder why the Israelites ever left?
- It simply trashes the Bible story like putting Kadesh
Barnea inside the promised land at Qudeirat.
- Herodotus mistakenly said the Nile flooded Arabia?
- "So said the oracle. Now the Nile, when it
overflows, floods not only the Delta, but also
the tracts of country on both sides the stream which are thought to
belong to Libya and Arabia, in some places reaching to the extent
of two days' journey from its banks, in some even exceeding that
distance, but in others falling short of it. Concerning
the nature of the river, I was not able to gain any information either
from the priests or from others." (Herodotus 2:19)
- It is impossible for the Nile to flood across the Arabian
Sea (Red Sea).
- Notice he makes this ridiculous statement about the Nile
flooding Arabia because he had no first hand knowledge.
- But wait! Herodotus viewed the land west of the Red Sea
(Arabian Gulf) as Arabia!
- The waters that flood Arabia are not flowing across the
Suez Canal, but the east side of the Nile Delta near both Goshen and
- Herodotus viewed the town of Buto in the middle of the
Nile Delta in Egypt as being in "Arabia":
- Now Buto is the archeological site of Tell
al-Fara'in near Rosetta in the north western Nile delta.
- Buto is in the north-western Nile Delta near Rosetta: "Arabia
not far from the town of Buto" (Herodotus, Histories 2.75.1)
- Herodotus describes how ibis birds eat winged water
snakes near Buto.
- It is interesting that the snakes fly from Buto in Arabia
- "There is a place in Arabia
not far from the town of Buto where I went to learn about the winged serpents. When I arrived there, I saw innumerable
bones and backbones of serpents: many heaps of backbones, great and small
and even smaller.  This place, where the backbones lay scattered, is
where a narrow mountain pass opens into a great plain, which adjoins the
plain of Egypt.  Winged serpents are said to fly from Arabia at the
beginning of spring, making for Egypt; but the ibis birds encounter the
invaders in this pass and kill them.  The Arabians say that the ibis
is greatly honored by the Egyptians for this service, and the Egyptians
give the same reason for honoring these birds.   Now this is the appearance of the ibis. It is
all quite black, with the legs of a crane, and a beak sharply hooked, and
is as big as a landrail. Such is the appearance of the ibis which fights
with the serpents. Those that most associate with men (for there are two
kinds of ibis)  have the whole head and neck bare of feathers; their
plumage is white, except the head and neck and wingtips and tail (these
being quite black); the legs and beak of the bird are like those of the
other ibis. The serpents are like water-snakes.
 Their wings are not feathered but very like the wings of a bat.I have
now said enough concerning creatures that are sacred. (Hdt., Hist.
- Strangely, either the site is wrong, or Herodotus simply
got it wrong because he says that Buto was " where a narrow mountain
pass opens into a great plain, which adjoins the plain of Egypt".
For those wanting to make this Goshen, it doesn't fit any better than Tell al-Fara'in because neither have mountain passes.
- The Buto Herodotus is speaking of may be a different
location altogether. Some place it near Tel El-Dab'a, which is easily explained
as being near "Arabia-Town/China-Town".
- Reginald W. Macan who wrote a commentary on Herodotus
locates "Arabians" on the west side of the Arabian Sea (Red
- "The Arabians wore mantles girded up, and carried at
their right side long bows curving backwards." (Ethnologically, we
have here the purest Semitic stock of the empire, unless, indeed, these ‘Arabians’ are to be sought (with Rawlinson) in Africa,
between the Nile valley and the Red Sea (2. 8). The Arabs of Asia
were not vassals of Persia, Herodotus commentary, Herodotus, Hist.
7.69.1, Reginald W. Macan, 1907 AD)
Herodotus knew full well that Arabia proper was nowhere near Egypt.
His comments that lead some to put "Arabia in Egypt" are rather
simple to explain:
"Arabian cities" in the Nile
Delta are merely Arab immigrants who formed a majority population in a city
inside Egypt. There is a "China Town" in ever major city, but we all
know where China is not.
The references to the "Arabian Sea" and
the "Arabian Mountains" does not mean
Arabia inside Egypt, west of the Red Sea or even close by. These references
simply mean the Egyptian mountain range flanged entire length the Arabian Sea
which separated Egypt from the territory of Arabia proper.
Gordon Franz said, "Herodotus’ description would
therefore include all of the Sinai Peninsula in Arabia of his day." (Where
is Mount Sinai in Arabia: Galatians 4:25?, Bible and Spade, 2013 AD)
This is sloppy and inaccurate.
In fact, Herodotus’ description of Arabia, if taken
equally shallow and superficially, would also include all of the Nile Delta,
the mountain range 15 miles to the east off the Great pyramids that flanks the
west side of the Arabian Gulf (Red Sea including Gulf of Suez) AND the Sinai
Peninsula in Arabia of his day."
With all this keep in mind that Herodotus relied upon
second hand reports and clearly had no idea of the Gulf of Aqaba.
What proves too much proves nothing and citing Herodotus
as proof Mt. Sinai CANNOT be located in Saudi Arabia is delusional and
misleading. (After all, doesn't everyone agree that Saudi Arabia is in Arabia?)
ignored the REAL Gulf of Aqaba, while invented a PHANTOM Gulf of the Nile!
had no idea the Gulf of Aqaba existed and this explains why he seems to place
Arabia so close to the Gulf of Suez.
admits he relied upon second hand reports of the geography of Egypt.
underscores that his understanding of the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez and Gulf of
Aqaba were flawed.
Herodotus had understood the Gulf of Aqaba, he would have known that the Sinai
Peninsula was not part of Arabia.
- If your take a modern map and remove the Gulf of Aqaba
(and therefore the modern Sinai Peninsula disappears), you too would
think Arabia was beside the Suez canal like Herodotus. Herodotus was only
partially correct on two different elements of his geography. He
correctly understood that the Red sea was near the Nile, and that Arabia
was east of the Red Sea. He was simply unaware of the missing the 250 km!
who use Herodotus to prove the Sinai Peninsula is Arabia in the mind of
Herodotus are perpetuating an historical fiction.
Steve Rudd: Contact the author for
comments, input or corrections.
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