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The Histories

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One of the masterpieces of classical literature, the "Histories" describes how a small and quarrelsome band of Greek city states united to repel the might of the Persian empire. But while this epic struggle forms the core of his work, Herodotus' natural curiosity frequently gives rise to colorful digressions - a description of the natural wonders of Egypt; an account of Eu One of the masterpieces of classical literature, the "Histories" describes how a small and quarrelsome band of Greek city states united to repel the might of the Persian empire. But while this epic struggle forms the core of his work, Herodotus' natural curiosity frequently gives rise to colorful digressions - a description of the natural wonders of Egypt; an account of European lake-dwellers; and far-fetched accounts of dog-headed men and gold-digging ants. With its kaleidoscopic blend of fact and legend, the "Histories" offers a compelling Greek view of the world of the fifth century BC.


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One of the masterpieces of classical literature, the "Histories" describes how a small and quarrelsome band of Greek city states united to repel the might of the Persian empire. But while this epic struggle forms the core of his work, Herodotus' natural curiosity frequently gives rise to colorful digressions - a description of the natural wonders of Egypt; an account of Eu One of the masterpieces of classical literature, the "Histories" describes how a small and quarrelsome band of Greek city states united to repel the might of the Persian empire. But while this epic struggle forms the core of his work, Herodotus' natural curiosity frequently gives rise to colorful digressions - a description of the natural wonders of Egypt; an account of European lake-dwellers; and far-fetched accounts of dog-headed men and gold-digging ants. With its kaleidoscopic blend of fact and legend, the "Histories" offers a compelling Greek view of the world of the fifth century BC.

30 review for The Histories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. Ancient Greeks are quarrelsome and love to waste each other’s city-states for the pettiest reasons. 2. From all forms of government known to man, democracy is the best. Tyrants and oligarchs suck. 3. The Persian Empire is a mighty barbarian nation, but being cowardly, effeminate and slavish, it is eventually defeated by the quarrelsome but brave and civilized Greeks. 4. Among the Greeks, the Spartans are the bravest. Gerard Butler with a si What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. Ancient Greeks are quarrelsome and love to waste each other’s city-states for the pettiest reasons. 2. From all forms of government known to man, democracy is the best. Tyrants and oligarchs suck. 3. The Persian Empire is a mighty barbarian nation, but being cowardly, effeminate and slavish, it is eventually defeated by the quarrelsome but brave and civilized Greeks. 4. Among the Greeks, the Spartans are the bravest. Gerard Butler with a six-pack King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans heroically perished in the battle of Thermopylae. They also have the particularly icky custom of marrying their own nieces. 5. The Delphic oracles are 100% accurate, except when someone manages to corrupt the Pythoness. The Gods are, however, a jealous sort and would strike any mortal who has the presumption of calling himself happiest on earth. Therefore, one should call no man happy until he is dead. 6. Egypt is a country of wonders, but its citizens’ customs and manners are exactly the reverse of the common practice of mankind elsewhere. For example, the women there urinate standing up, while the men sitting down. The country also abounds in strange fauna, among them the hippopotamus --- a quadruped, cloven-footed animal, with the mane and tail of a horse, huge tusks and a voice like a horse’s neigh. 7. The Scythians are a warlike nation that practices human sacrifice. The Scythian soldier drinks the blood of the first man that he kills in battle and cuts off all of his enemies’ heads, which he must show to the king to get his share of the war booty. They also like to saw off their enemies’ skulls, which they make into fancy gold-plated drinking cups. 8. The manners of the Androphagi, being cannibals, are more savage than those of any other race. Darius the Persian smote them. 9. The Atarantians, alone of all known nations, are destitute of names. The title of Atarantians is borne by the whole race in common, but the men have no particular names of their own. They also like to curse the sun because he burns and wastes both their country and themselves. 10. In the Indian desert live ants that are larger than a fox. They like to throw up sand-heaps as they burrow, which are full of gold. This is why India is so rich in gold. In Arabia, there are sheep that have long tails, so long that the shepherds have to make little trucks for their tails. Really. BUT SERIOUSLY, Herodotus is a consummate storyteller who had a fine eye for the fantastical, although to his credit, he always qualified his more improbable assertions by stating that they are based on hearsay or other sources that he could not wholly verify. Much of the pleasure of reading his book is found in the lush descriptions of long lost nations and their exotic customs. His 'Histories' does not concern itself solely with history in the modern sense, but it is also a book of travelogue, ethnography, zoology, geography and botany. He is an excellent raconteur, almost always entertaining, except when he drones about speculative geography. We can easily imagine him, a man of seemingly inexhaustible curiosity, interviewing Marathon veterans for firsthand battle accounts, or interrogating Egyptian temple priests about their country’s history and religion. History for him is not a dry recitation of facts and dates, but an intensely human story acted by a vast cast of monarchs, queens, warriors, tyrants, gods and ordinary citizens. Regicides and rebellions are caused by personal passions, such as in the stories of Caudales and Gyges, and Xerxes and Masistes. Dreams compel Xerxes to invade Greece. Divine intervention decides the course of epic battles. A skein of tragedy runs through the historical drama that he narrates. The gods are so capricious and jealous that “one should not call a man happy until he is dead.” Xerxes, on beholding his massive force on the Hellespont, laments that “not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by.” Yet while man lives his short existence he is capable of epic deeds, and Herodotus chronicled them all.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Ἰστορίαι = The Histories, Herodotus The Histories of Herodotus is the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time. Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it establis Ἰστορίαι = The Histories, Herodotus The Histories of Herodotus is the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time. Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established the genre and study of history in the Western world. The Histories also stands as one of the first accounts of the rise of the Persian Empire, as well as the events and causes of the Greco-Persian Wars between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «تاریخ هرودوت»؛ «تواریخ»؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم ماه آگوست سال1972میلادی عنوان: تاریخ هرودوت؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ ترجمه به انگلیسی: جرج راولین سن؛ تنظیم: ا.ج اوانس؛ مترجم: غلامعلی وحید مازندرانی؛ تهران، علمی، سال1324، در24ص و211ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر، سال1360، در هشت ص و300ص؛ موضوع تاریخ هخامنشیان - جنگهای ایران و یونان - از سده ششم پیش از میلاد تا سده چهارم پیش از میلادی عنوان: تواریخ؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ مترجم: غلامعلی وحید مازندرانی؛ تهران، دنیای کتاب؛ سال1368؛ در573ص و4ص، مصور؛ شابک9643461637؛ چاپ دوم سال1368؛ چاپ سوم سال1386؛ چاپ دیگر مشهد، خاتم، سال1391؛ در612ص؛ شابک9786006153278؛ عنوان: تاریخ هرودوت؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ مترجم: مرتضی ثاقب فر؛ تهران، اساطیر، سال1389، در دو جلد؛ شابک جلد یک9789643314699؛ شابک جلد دوم9789643314705؛ تاریخ «هرودوت» یا کتاب «تواریخ» یک کتاب تاریخی است، که توسط «هرودوت»، مورخ «یونانی» در سال چهارصد و چهل پیش از میلادی نگاشته شده‌ است؛ این کتاب نخستین کتاب «تاریخ» در جهان به‌ شمار می‌رود؛ و شامل نه کتاب است (سه کتاب نخست به «آسیای صغیر»، «مصر»، «میان‌رودان»، «ایران» و «سوریه» و «سرزمین‌های مجاور آن»، کتاب چهارم دربارهٔ «سکاها» و کتاب پنجم تا نهم به «جنگ‌های ایران و یونان» اختصاص دارد)؛ شرح زندگانی چهار شاه ایرانی «کوروش بزرگ»، «کمبوجیه یکم»، «داریوش بزرگ»، و «خشایارشای بزرگ» در این کتاب آرمیده است شرق شناس پرآوازه، و کاشف خط میخی «هنری راولینسون»، در دوران پادشاهی «محمدشاه قاجار»، مربی نظامی در فوج «کرمانشاه» بودند، ایشان ضمن خدمت، به کاوش و پژوهش برای کشف رموز «خط میخی» نیز همت گماشتند، و سرانجام موفق شدند؛ پس از کشف چگونگی خوانش «خط میخی»، برادر ایشان «جرج راولینسون»، از آن اکتشاف مهم تاریخی بهره گرفتند، و نخستین ترجمه کامل از «تاریخ هرودوت» به زبان «انگلیسی» را، با حواشی و توضیح در چهار مجلد، در سال1858میلادی منتشر کردند، در سال1910میلادی، نسخه ی تازه ای از ترجمه ی مزبور، در دو جلد منتشر شد، در این نسخه بیشتر متن را حفظ، اما حواشی و یادداشتها و مقدمه را، خلاصه کرده بودند، در آغاز جنگ جهانگیر دوم، نسخه ی یک جلدی از ترجمه ی «راولینسون» توسط «ا.ج اوانس» دوباره تلخیص و تنظیم شد، این کتاب برگردان جناب «غ وحید مازندرانی»، از همان نسخه یک جلدی، از زبان «انگلیسی» میباشد، که نخستین چاپ آن در سال1324هجری خورشیدی، توسط انتشارات علمی، در دسترس پژوهشگران قرار گرفته است؛ این فراموشکار نخستین بار متن «انگلیسی» کتاب را خوانده ام، و سپس بارها و بارها نیز آنرا دوباره خوانده ام، و هر بار که فرصتی دست دهد، و حوصله ام برای تاریخ تنگ شود، باز هم تکه ای از متن «انگلیسی» را میخوانم، کاغذ آن نسخه ی کتاب جیبی این فراموشکار کاهی است، و صفحاتش زرد شده، و چشمانم حروف «انگلیسی» ریز را این روزها خوب تشخیص نمیدهند، ولی میخوانم، این نوشته ی «هرودوت» شاهکاری است، که هماره باقی خواهد ماند، تا به آیندگان آموزش دهد که تاریخ را چگونه بنویسند تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 19/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    What do Herodotus and Tristram Shandy have in common? Progress through digression. I suppose my first acquaintance with the work of Herodotus was through that technicolor cold war drama The 300 Spartans in which a rampantly heterosexual force of Spartans defends freedom, liberty, and all that good stuff from allegedly ferocious yet ineffective, hordes of freedom hating Persians. The appalling, appealing, simplicity of that film is a grave disservice to the genius of Herodotus – already mauled by What do Herodotus and Tristram Shandy have in common? Progress through digression. I suppose my first acquaintance with the work of Herodotus was through that technicolor cold war drama The 300 Spartans in which a rampantly heterosexual force of Spartans defends freedom, liberty, and all that good stuff from allegedly ferocious yet ineffective, hordes of freedom hating Persians. The appalling, appealing, simplicity of that film is a grave disservice to the genius of Herodotus – already mauled by Thucydides barely after completing – if complete it is – his surviving work. Later I was shocked into actually reading the first half of an old Everyman edition of Herodotus by a National Geographic article but it was only now at an advanced age - older quite possibly than many of the protagonists described in the Histories - that I have finally read through the complete Herodotus. The conflicts between the Persians and the Greeks, culminating in the battles of Marathon, Salamis and Plataea, form a framework in which Herodotus digresses his way round the Greek world: physically (view spoiler)[the only disappointments are getting to see India (summed by by gold digging ants and a contingent of soldiers in Xerxes' army) or Europe - represented by a story of the silent trade between Carthage and (I presume) some people in Spain, silent because it was carried out by the Carthaginians laying out some trade goods, retreating out of sight, then the Iberians coming forward and laying out some metal, this process continuing until both sides are happy and take what the other has offered, similar stories of this style of trade can be found in other parts of the world too (hide spoiler)] , intellectually, culturally, but the eventual war is less the story of the clash of civilisations than the clash of relative inequality of development. Because one of the things that has struck me reading the whole thing in a linear fashion is not so much the framing narrative structure but the repetition of themes and narrative parallels: the wise advisor to the ruler, that a hard land makes for a hard people, that change follows on from transgression. One of the early starting points in Herodotus' narrative is the rise of Persia under Cyrus. Then, in the beginning, the Persians are poor. They inhabit a harsh land. By the end of the story the Persians possess a mighty empire, they are rich and rule over wealthy peoples but they make war against the Greeks. They have forgotten Cyrus' warning, which Herodotus kindly reminds us of: "Soft countries...breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too" (p543). For narrative purposes the Greeks in the time of story - already several generations before Herodotus was composing his work - were poor. In their Olympic Games they compete for Olive Branches and honour, rather than gold, silver or bronze like sensible people (view spoiler)[here we can see how Herodotus is colouring his material, many of the competitors would have been wealthy enough as it was and for the winners it seems there were opportunities for material reward even if they were not formally awarded at the podium so to speak, but the image of competing for olive branches is pressed into service with good effect to create the sense of a complete inequality of wealth even though the Greek cities were plainly not in the same category as say the Scythians (hide spoiler)] , simply because they have nothing better, the contrast between a rich Persian meal and a Spartan one (view spoiler)[see how we've preserved the idea in our own language (hide spoiler)] is an occasion for laughter. There's a criticism of Imperialism in this - what is the point of waging war against people who sleep in tents, wear leather, live in a country so unfruitful that they can eat all they can find but can never eat their fill? The repeated lesson, never learnt, taught through repeated harsh blows (view spoiler)[so much for the educative utility of the application of violence (hide spoiler)] is that transgression through aggression that is not sanctioned by God, gods, Fate, or Mandate of Heaven, as expressed variously through the opaque words of Oracles, and (view spoiler)[although I would say that given how deep my thinking still lies within the shadow of Braudel (hide spoiler)] really this is about expansion beyond your ecological base, ends in grim failure perhaps in the form of having your decapitated head dipped into a bag of blood - such was Cyrus' fate at the hands of Queen Tomyris - ah, another theme here - call no man happy until his death! By the time Herodotus's work was completed it is the Greeks who in turn are wealthy and powerful, on the verge of fighting the Peloponnesian war (during which, so much for the eternal clash of civilisations, the Spartans will turn to the Persians for aid in defeating the Athenians, but in Herodotian style, I digress, with purpose). We can read this, whether Herodotus intended this is another question, with irony. Success will lead to wealth, an inevitable softening, and pride leads on to a fall (view spoiler)[I can imagine that Herodotus was an inspiration to Ibn Khaldun and his book The Muqaddimah (hide spoiler)] . Since History didn't exist before Herodotus (or Thucydides depending on your point of view) we can hardly say that history in Herodotus is cyclical rather than linear, instead the philosophy that unfolds is that the nature of existence itself is cyclical. Wisdom is the result of hardship, learnt by riding Fate's wheel in a complete cycle. Alienated in self imposed exile Solon is the wise advisor to Croesus. After defeat in the war which he brought about, Croesus can be a wise advisor to Cyrus. In exile the Spartan King Demaratus is a wise advisor to Xerxes. To judge Herodotus as a writer of history is a little unfair, this is a transitional work. Part of his approach comes from the epic - he is explicitly looking back to Homer and the Iliad, another part we would think of as folktale and fable which is about moral teachings, traditional wisdom, and tropes (view spoiler)[such as lost children, born to greatness, saved and brought up in secret safety - we get several of these alone in Herodotus in Cyrus himself and Cypselus of Corinth, it is interesting that these historical figures were by Herodutus' day already transformed into folk-tales (hide spoiler)] , another the travelogue - Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is a direct descendent (view spoiler)[there is a similar framing narrative - the great clash between two civilisations and an exploration of one civilisation through travel through its landscape and history (hide spoiler)] . History, though, as a narrative of events with an analysis of causes is one of his gifts just as Egypt was the gift of the Nile, even if in part on account of Thucydides sharp response to Herodotus. It also manages to capture the transition that occurs when the past and historical memory slips over into fable. This is not only something we can see in the presentation of Cyrus and Cypselus but more pointedly in the examples of Delphi and Thebes. Already by Herodotus' time Delphi was painting over its prior Persian sympathies and we get some fantastical stories instead of how weapons left in the sanctuary divinely appeared around the temple or how a great loud voice was heard shouting from within all of which conflicts completely with the oracular statements that Herodotus records which instead are defeatist if not actually pro-Persian, the effect is a little like a book about occupied France showing that everybody - even Petain, was actually in the Resistance. The Thebians, despite their contingent dying to a man at Thermopylae, are recorded as pro-Persian - this is attributed to Herodotus making use of Athenian informants. I feel that there is fable and folklore also in the victory at Salamis - the Greeks win by playing a trick upon the Persians, Thermistocles is the Odysseus of the piece, wielding the one not entirely defeatist oracle, maintaining the allies in a threatened position, trying to exploit the potential for division amongst the Persian coalition, and finally mauling the enemy fleet, although the cycle must be completed for him too and eventually he ends up as a wise advisor at the Persian court. Still, I like how archaeology now confirms Herodotus' stories of steppe women wielding weapons, just as zoology confirms that the genitals of both sexes of camel face backwards (view spoiler)[ reasonably you may wonder how they manage copulate: a camel's penis can rotate 180 degrees (hide spoiler)] . Some historians even take things one stage further and prefer Herodotus' account of Athenian strategy developing in reaction to the Persian advance to the discovered inscription at Troezen which gives the retreat down the coast and the evacuation of Attica as previously agreed strategies. Unlike in the old film, Herodotus' Persians are gallant and honourable foes (if occasionally given to whipping the sea for it's misdeeds), but then we are in the epic tradition. The enemy has to be worthy of the hero. Herodotus is far more effective here than say Livy in his treatment of the war with Hannibal - there we have to read Punic virtues and attractiveness between the lines to understand the fact that Livy doesn't attempt to explain of Hannibal surviving and thriving in Italy for years on end. I wondered reading if Herodotus would make for a complete elementary education, Aesop meets Aeschylus with the wonders of Egypt thrown in. Admittedly you would have to deal with questions like "Mummy, Daddy, what does 'refused normal intercourse and lay with her in an unnatural way (view spoiler)[ p25, its an interesting story (hide spoiler)] ' mean?" so this would be no course of action for the fainted hearted - but one only for those prepared to bend the bow of the long-lived Ethiopians and to bring up their offspring to respect the Oracle at Delphi, admire wisdom, and be curious about the customs of other countries. If I may deviate from my current deviation and recover the thread of my narrative the other point that struck me reading the complete work rather than just the first half was how Murray's Early Greece was in good part a commentary and analysis of Herodotus, drawing its anecdotes about the Oracle at Delphi or Greek Colonies from this work. On the subject of the latter, pausing to mention the colonists who departing their homeland threw a lump of iron in the harbour swearing never to return until it floated or those told by the Oracle at Delphi to set up a colony in Libya even though they had no idea where Libya was or how to get there, I arrive at the Greek settlers at Miletus who married Carian women after having murdered all their menfolk. The colonists pass a law "forbidding them to sit at table with their husbands or to address them by name" (p60). Later there is a similar story about captured Athenian women whose children born of rape band together to the point that they are all considered dangerous by their captors who put them all to death, this inevitably leads to divine punishment and the need to ask advice of the Oracle at Delphi, but I digress, though before returning to my theme again the pattern of violence as self-destructive behaviour that brings down an entire community - the whole of the Persian wars in Herodotus' account is figured as the culmination of a series of violent abductions that can only ever end in disaster because the human passions can not be stilled until divine retribution forces the community polluted through its violence to offer up propitiation. This reminded me of Michael Wood's point about western Europe having adopted ancient Greece as a forebear - "the glory that was Greece" was not all fine statues and beautiful ruins, heritage isn't a clear cut matter, the baby comes with the bathwater. The great contrast here in my mind is with the Romans. They have the Sabine women, who despite the violent beginning represent reconciliation and the unity of different peoples. The Romans base an ideology of empire and themselves as an Imperial people on the basis of a myth of reconciliation, the Greeks an ideology of civic distinctiveness on a history of sectarianism enforced beyond the point of self-harm. Something clear from Herodotus' account is how divided the Greeks are, with many supporting the Persians and some opposed, not out of great principals but on account of local rivalries. Lets finish with the Spartans. Not as laconic, proto-all-American superheroes of the battlefield tanned and oiled fit to star in technicolor, but as examples of Herodotus' style. It is the Spartans and Athenians who breach the norms of international diplomacy by murdering the Persian Ambassadors - Herodotus is no whitewasher (though perhaps his early audiences admired their ancestors precisely for that violation). Best of all is his fascinated treatment of the Spartan King Cleomenes, at once decisive and brilliant, but transgressing acceptable behaviour - for instance having holed up some enemies in a sacred wood he tricks some of them out claiming they have been ransomed and has them slaughtered (pp349-50). The Spartans put him on trial for failing to capture Argos, in his defence he argues that having offered sacrifice at the temple of Hera he saw flame flash from the breast but not the head of the statue he knew from this with absolute certainty that he was not to capture Argos...The Spartans accepted this as a credible and reasonable defence, and Cleomenes was fully acquitted (p350). The outcome of all this is that Cleomenes goes mad, and with a knife, cuts himself into strips while in the stocks. Again: transgression, pollution, and call no man happy until he is dead. "My business is to record what people say, but I am by no means bound to believe it - and that may be taken to apply to this book as a whole" (p421)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Hubris in History: A Recurring Terror “The conversion of legend-writing into the science of history was not native to the Greek mind, it was a fifth-century invention, and Herodotus was the man who invented it.” ~ R.G. Collingwood The prime subject of The Histories is the twenty years (499-479 B.C.E) of war between Greece and Persia for domination of the Greek world. However he intersperses this main narrative with plenty of personal interest stories, “wonders” about firsts and bests, hist Hubris in History: A Recurring Terror “The conversion of legend-writing into the science of history was not native to the Greek mind, it was a fifth-century invention, and Herodotus was the man who invented it.” ~ R.G. Collingwood The prime subject of The Histories is the twenty years (499-479 B.C.E) of war between Greece and Persia for domination of the Greek world. However he intersperses this main narrative with plenty of personal interest stories, “wonders” about firsts and bests, historical parallels and occasionally his own biased judgements, but always making it clear that he is interested only in presenting a viewpoint — he leaves the act of judgement to the reader. We can safely say that it was Herodotus who helped create the concept of the discipline of “history,” in part by stressing and criticizing his sources and accepted traditions. My job is to record what I have been told, make of it what you will - that is the dominant warning note wherever H’s authorial voice intervenes in the narrative. That should be the disclaimer all history books should come with. All the main themes of the book are evident in its beginning and ending, in keeping with the circular narratives that H prefers to adopt. All the intervening incidents act like reinforcements of the overall thrust inherent in the beginning and ending. The Beginning: The Parallel Rise of Freedom & Empire We begin with an insecure Hellenic world, just shaking off the shackles of tyranny and tasting real ambition for the first time. Meanwhile in the other end of the world, an existing empire is being shaped into a fearsome tyrannical force by the new Persian rulers. Soon the Persian empire starts to extend ominously outwards and gobbles up most of the known world. This infringes on a core idea of H — the concept of natural limits and over-extension. Persia is meant to fall. “The Small shall become the Big; and the Big shall become the Small.” As long as empires are driven by ambition, history is doomed to repeat itself. The gods set limits and do not allow human beings to go beyond them; Herodotus makes it clear that the Persians have to fail in their plan to conquer Greece, because they have overreached their natural boundaries. Xerxes announces his campaign by telling his advisers that he intends to conquer Greece so that ‘we will make Persian territory end only at the sky’ (7.8). The Middle: The Clash of Civilizations Then we are taken through the many over-extensions of the Persian empire under a succession of rulers (in Ionia, Scythia, etc), until they are poised to encroach upon the newly non-tyrannical Greek world. Here we enter the climactic middle of the narrative and is drenched in the details of the gory encounter. Many heroes, legends and dramatic material is born here and we emerge on the other side with a clear sense that it was Athens, without the yoke of tyranny, that was able to bring down the fearsome war machine of the Persian empire. David has won out against Goliath. This is achieved due to much luck and much pluck, but in the final analysis H seems to imply that the fault was with the hubris of the Persians. It needs to be pointed out that: H is quite clear that as human beings Persians are on the whole no better and no worse than Greeks. Structurally, however, Xerxes’ great expedition to Greece stands as a monument to the dangerous blindness of massive empires and grandiose thinking—but it is also the backdrop against which H has been able to present to us the Greeks’ love of their homeland, their valor against incredible odds, and their deep desire to preserve their freedom. So, even as this main narrative concludes, we are shown what is the inevitable result of Hubris that over-extends its own reaches. And of how tyranny in any form is not going to triumph over people who have tasted what freedom means. The Ending: A Reenactment of The Beginning Herodotus could have ended there. But he doesn’t. Instead he takes us to the Ending to rub in the message and to instill that message with its true significance — what is its bearing on the future? For, an investigation of History is meaningless unless it can educate us about the future. And it is the future that H ironically points to as he takes us through the concluding sections of his Histories. For now it is the turn of the Greeks to over-extend. In the thrill of victory and in the thrall of a thirst for revenge, in the spirit of competition with its own neighbors, Athens and Sparta launch out on its own imperialistic enterprise to mainland Asia. This is to culminate in H’s own day with the Ionians looking upon Athens as the equivalent of a Tyrant. The beginning of this period saw the triumph of the Greek mainland states over the might of the Persian Empire, first in the initial invasion of 490 and the battle of Marathon, and then in the second invasion of 480/79, with the battles of Thermopylae, Salamis, Plataea, and finally Mycaleb in Asia Mnor. This unexpected victory against what seemed like the mightiest empire on Earth resonated in Greek consciousness through the fifth century and indeed beyond. The Greeks in general, and the Athenians in particular, because they had played the major part in the triumph of “Freedom”, saw these victories as a triumph of right over might, courage over fear, freedom over servitude, moderation over arrogance. It helped crystallize and reinforce Greeks’ attitudes to their own newfound way of life and values, intensified their supreme distrust of monarchy and tyranny, and shaped their attitude to the Persians. And after what they visualized as the great struggle for freedom, the people of Athens entered upon a spectacular era of energy and prosperity, one of the great flowering periods of Western civilization. In more practical terms, Athens’ naval success in the Persian Wars and its enterprise immediately after led to the creation of the Athenian Empire, which started as an anti-Persian league and lasted for almost three-quarters of a century (479-404). H seems to imply that Athens should learn from these investigations of the past, see what Tyranny can do, see the dangers of over-extension, understand the need for balance, respect certain international boundaries, and stay its own overreaching hand. And indeed within fifty years of the Persian defeat the dream had faded, and before the end of the century Athens, over-extended abroad and overconfident at home, lay defeated at the mercy of her enemies, a Spartan garrison posted on the Acropolis and democracy in ruins. Much in the intervening years had been magnificent, it is true, but so it might have remained if the Athenians had heeded Herodotus. He had portrayed the Greek victory as a triumph over the barbarian latent in themselves, the hubris that united the invader and the native tyrant as targets of the gods. The Persian downfall, or at least the defeat of their imperialistic ambition, called not only for exultation but for compassion and lasting self-control. As should be quite obvious, there is much to learn in this for modern times too, but with an added twist. For Hubris did not end its romp through history there. It took on new wings once history started being recorded. Now every new emperor was also competing with history. Alexander had to outdo Xerxes. Caesar had to outdo Alexander. Britain had to outdo Rome. Germany had to outdo Britain. USA had to outdo Britain, etc. A never-ending arms-race with imperial history and the accompanying Hubris that powers it. So Herodotus, even as he recorded History so as to blunt its devastating force on the lives of men, also unwittingly added new impetus to its influence, by adding the new flavor of recorded glory to the existing receptacle of legendary glory. Hubris drank it up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    The kids bought me this for Christmas and it is a thing of infinite beauty. I’ve been meaning to read these histories for years and never quite got around to it. I had never realised quite how remarkable this book would be. This version of the book is the third that I now own – I’ve also got a copy of the Penguin Classics and I’ve just finished listening to this as a talking book. But I am going to make my way through this book eventually, as it is hard to focus on many of the details of the wars The kids bought me this for Christmas and it is a thing of infinite beauty. I’ve been meaning to read these histories for years and never quite got around to it. I had never realised quite how remarkable this book would be. This version of the book is the third that I now own – I’ve also got a copy of the Penguin Classics and I’ve just finished listening to this as a talking book. But I am going to make my way through this book eventually, as it is hard to focus on many of the details of the wars and so on without a decent map in front of you to refer to – and this book has lots of maps and drawings and other illustrations, although, annoyingly, no illustration of the Egyptian labyrinth which Herodotus said was even more remarkable than the pyramids. Along the way Herodotus tells some incredible stories. Some of them sound like they are straight out of the 1001 nights. Others make your jaw drop open. There are also discussions of things like what is the source of the Nile, that really have whetted my curiosity to read more about the 19th century types who finally discovered the source. Now, why was this such a big question in the ancient world? Well, the problem was that the Nile seemed to come out of the desert and that isn’t exactly the sort of place where you would expect to find lots and lots of water. The winds that came for where the Nile seemed to flow out from were also always hot – and so the idea that perhaps the water in the Nile swelled once a year due to the melting of snow (although partly reasonable, obviously) didn’t seem to make a lot of sense when you thought that the river was coming out of a desert (deserts being the natural enemy of snow). It really is fascinating listening to Herodotus discussing these speculations about the source of the Nile and the paradoxes such speculations provided. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “There ain’t no limit to the amount of trouble women bring”. There are interesting asides about the Trojan war and how Herodotus speculates that Helen was probably dead by the time of the war started and so when the Greeks asked for the Trojans to hand her over they literally couldn’t. He can’t see why else they would have allowed their civilisation to be crushed for the sake of one woman, beautiful or not. There is a woman who commanded a ship on the side of the Persians, there are women who come back as ghosts and complain about being cold (which their husband should know as the last time he tried to bake his bread the oven was cold – this would have taken me a while to understand if Herodotus did not explain that the husband had lain with her after she had died.) But this is not really a history that involves many women – this is a story about blokes doing what blokes like most – killing other blokes. All the same, my favourite bit of this came quite early in the piece. The story of the theft of Rhampsinitos’ treasure. I’m going to give you the short McCandless version of this as it really is a wonderful story and I can’t leave this review without talking about it. When Rhampsinitos (an Egyptian king) decided to have a place built for his treasure he didn’t know that the builder would put a stone into the works that could be easily removed. The builder told his sons about this stone as he lay dying and once the builder had died his sons nipped around to the king’s treasury and helped themselves to the riches inside. The king noticed this sudden loss of wealth and set a trap to capture those who were all too frequently popping in and stealing his goodies. The trap was quite successful and one of the brothers ended up getting caught. He told his other brother to cut off his head so that they wouldn’t both be discovered. This his all too obliging brother did. The king then had a body without a head in his treasury, but still had no idea how anyone could get into the treasury room without breaking any of the seals on the locks. So, he had the body of the thief hung up and guarded so that whoever cried in front of it would be brought before him. The thief who had cut off his brother’s head was then told by his mother that he had better do something to rescue his brother’s body or else all hell would break lose. He came up with a plan to get the guards drunk and to steal the body, which he did and also shaved half of their beards off to make sure they quite understood how stupid they had been made to look. The king was, needless to say, bloody furious. (I did mention this reminded me of the 1001 nights, yeah?) Anyway, the king then decides to get his daughter to work in a brothel, but before she sleeps with anyone she is to ask them what is the worst thing they have ever done and if any of them say anything like they cut off their brother’s head and stole his body from the king’s guards, she is to grab hold of him and call for the police (or whatever the Egyptian equivalent was at the time). The thief decides to play along, and goes to the brothel with the severed arm of a freshly dead corpse under his jumper. When he tells the king’s daughter about his exploits she makes a grab for him and he holds out the dead man’s arm, which she holds onto while the thief cleverly makes his escape. The king is so impressed with this man’s exploits that he begs him to come forward and receive a reward, which he does and ends up getting to marry the king’s daughter – I assume the daughter he gets to marry is the prostitute mentioned earlier, but I guess no one actually ever called her that to her face. The best bit of this is that it shows something Herodotus does the whole way through these histories. He will be telling one of these stories and suddenly they will start to become completely unbelievable and he will say, “of course, I don’t believe this stuff for a minute, but this is the story I was told in Egypt and what would you have me do? I have to tell you what I was told.” The other story that held me enthralled was of the self-mutilation of Zopyros – honestly, this is utterly remarkable. It is worth reading the book just for this story alone. There are lots of occasions where fathers are forced to do horrible things to their sons – my favourite is the story of a king who punishes one of his advisors by feeding him his son as the meat portion of a feast. The king then leaves this advisor in a position where he can revenge himself on the king. You know, if I was to feed someone their own child I would probably kill him straight away afterwards – call me overly cautious, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the person who has feed you the flesh of one of your kids is never going to be one of you best friends ever again, no matter what else they do for you. This book is fantastic and the Landmark edition is like its name implies, really something special.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    I think I would like to invite my Goodreads friends to browse any Book you like, then take heart to start with Book I as the inception of the whole inquiry unthinkable to those Greek scholars at that time, but Herodotus could make it and you cannot help admiring him when you read his famous preamble: Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds -- some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians -- m I think I would like to invite my Goodreads friends to browse any Book you like, then take heart to start with Book I as the inception of the whole inquiry unthinkable to those Greek scholars at that time, but Herodotus could make it and you cannot help admiring him when you read his famous preamble: Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds -- some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians -- may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two people fought each other. (p. 4) This preamble, I think, in the 1970 edition may entice you as well: HERODOTUS of Halicarnassus, his Researches are here set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of other peoples; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict. (p. 41) Moreover, the one in this 1988 edition published by the University of Chicago Press is also interesting: I, Herodotus of Harlicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought one another. (p. 33) First of all, don't be intimidated by its length, that is, 543 pages in the 1996 Penguin edition, please find any translation you're familiar with its style or wording then keep reading a few pages once in a while, don't hope to finish it in a few days/weeks since it's one of the masterpieces in ancient history, you need time to think, take notes and ask yourself why. Secondly, this is definitely his magnum opus for posterity of all nations to read, reflect and interpret in terms of reciprocal toleration as fellow human beings so that we learn not to make unthinkable mistakes again. In many engagements there, you can witness various unimaginably ruthless deeds instigated by the powers that be, fate and godlike valour of those true Greek and Persian soldiers. Those fallen heroes including all innumerable soldiers killed in various battles deserve our respect with awe, admiration and gratitude as our exemplary models of humankind. And finally, scholars should honour and keep him in mind since Cicero called him 'the father of history' and we can enjoy reading his second to none narrative. However, some chapters might not be interesting when he sometime told us about the flora/fauna seemingly unrelated to the looming hostilities. I take them as relaxing moments and we can learn from what he told us frankly and good-humoredly. Those ruthless war scenes, for instance from Chapter 20 onwards in Book IX, are amazingly described to the extent that we can visualize such ruthless gory scenes with increasingly stupefying horror in which it is hopelessly put into words. That's it and I think I would reread the University of Chicago version for solace and advice in there whenever I'm free from work. It'd teach us of course to mind our own business, be kind, have mercy towards our fellow colleagues, friends, cousins, etc. since we all have limited time to live on earth. Note: In fact, I have another Penguin copy with its front cover showing a painted vase depicting two soldiers in action (Persian vs. Greek), not this one so the page numbers as mentioned above may vary. Therefore, I've reposted my review since I don't know how to return to its previous book cover.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    It wasn't just Vollmann's fourth reference to Herodotus in a span of 20 pages in Rising Up and Rising Down, it was the reality and shame that I'm in my 40s and the most I know about the war between Persia and the Hellenic city states is what I learned from the movie 300. Thus, The Histories. First: I can't imagine what it would have been like reading these nine books by Herodotus in any format other than this simply amazingly researched and presented volume. The Landmark has to be the final word It wasn't just Vollmann's fourth reference to Herodotus in a span of 20 pages in Rising Up and Rising Down, it was the reality and shame that I'm in my 40s and the most I know about the war between Persia and the Hellenic city states is what I learned from the movie 300. Thus, The Histories. First: I can't imagine what it would have been like reading these nine books by Herodotus in any format other than this simply amazingly researched and presented volume. The Landmark has to be the final word on Herodotus: the maps, the footnotes, the appendices, indices, forwards and notes - it is an astounding collection created for the layperson like me to approach a subject that is seemingly dry and yawn-worthy. But The Histories is anything but boring. At times, even page-turning, jaw-dropping awesome. When you say to your partner, "Honey, listen to this -" and then quote Herodotus, you know something amazing has happened. Herodotus does more than just recount tales of war, he goes to great lengths to describe the culture and the history of dozens of the denizens in his world. An astounding undertaking in any age - made even more incredible given that this was written 600+ BCE. His even-handed histories and details of Persia, a nation looking to conquer and subjugate his own, is an astounding feat of scholarship and academia - even before those words had meaning. I was so impressed with The Landmark that I purchased their publications on Thucydides and Xenophon. By the time I've finished both of those, I'll be able to play horseshit bingo the next time I watch 300.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Accordingly the Psylli took counsel among themselves, and by common consent made war upon the southwind---so at least the Libyans say, I do but repeat their words---they went forth and reached the desert; but there the south-wind rose and buried them under heaps of sand: whereupon, the Psylli being destroyed, their lands passed to the Nasamonians. I read most of this edition (as opposed to the Landmark) picking up donated food for our residential component. It is a strange time. Therefore, it was Accordingly the Psylli took counsel among themselves, and by common consent made war upon the southwind---so at least the Libyans say, I do but repeat their words---they went forth and reached the desert; but there the south-wind rose and buried them under heaps of sand: whereupon, the Psylli being destroyed, their lands passed to the Nasamonians. I read most of this edition (as opposed to the Landmark) picking up donated food for our residential component. It is a strange time. Therefore, it was perhaps appropriate that I sat in the back of van engrossed in this tome. Vacant streets signifying something amiss. My only contact on many of these sojourns was the sudden appearance of masked figures bringing out cases of produce and other foodstuffs. I believe my foundations for approaching this were typical: largely The English Patient and Persian Fire: Tom Holland's book on Thermopylae. Coincidentally, I became aware that Holland himself had translated the Histories and I admit I find that prospect intriguing. Despite the attempts at objectivity, it is the personalities which I find fascinating: Xerxes and Leonidas are voices for the ages, however apocryphal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Conquest

    What I read: Histories by Herodotus What I expected: Thucydides + Persians What I got: Mountable battle dolphins The complete discography of Kid Rock Eyewitness testimony that Ethiopians produce pitch black semen (no homo) "Our flying snakes will block out the sun!" On all levels except physical I am a Mede *Whips the sea* "Herodotus can I borrow 100,000 Persians?" "1,000,000 Persians? What do you need 5,000,000 Persians for?" The Virgin Greek pederasty, the Chad Persian piss fetish What I read: Histories by Herodotus What I expected: Thucydides + Persians What I got: Mountable battle dolphins The complete discography of Kid Rock Eyewitness testimony that Ethiopians produce pitch black semen (no homo) "Our flying snakes will block out the sun!" On all levels except physical I am a Mede *Whips the sea* "Herodotus can I borrow 100,000 Persians?" "1,000,000 Persians? What do you need 5,000,000 Persians for?" The Virgin Greek pederasty, the Chad Persian piss fetish

  10. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    One of the surprising things about this book is that, despite its antiquity, the author’s personality comes through. Of course I’m hearing his voice through translation, but I couldn’t help but imagine that I was on the listening end of an extended conversation with the book’s narrator who had traveled widely, met many people, and read much. The book’s narrative sounds almost conversational with numerous digressions and detours that indicate extensive knowledge of the background of the character One of the surprising things about this book is that, despite its antiquity, the author’s personality comes through. Of course I’m hearing his voice through translation, but I couldn’t help but imagine that I was on the listening end of an extended conversation with the book’s narrator who had traveled widely, met many people, and read much. The book’s narrative sounds almost conversational with numerous digressions and detours that indicate extensive knowledge of the background of the characters and incidents being described. I almost feel like I’ve met the author who lived nearly 2.5 thousand years ago. This book is generally recognized as the founding work of history in Wester literature. Published around 425 BC, the year the author died, it recounts the traditions, politics, geography, and wars of that era. The actual writing of the work had probably stretched over a number of prior years. The work is divided into nine books beginning with founding myths and Trojan War and proceeding through Greek history until the second Persian invasion. It’s interesting to note that the second Persian invasion occurred approximately fifty-five years prior to the publishing of this account. Those intervening years were the zenith of the golden years of Ancient Greece during which Athens dominated over the other Greek city states. However, the beginning rebellions of what later became known as the Peloponnesian War (431 BC – 404 BC) were underway. LINK to my review of History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides. LINK to my review of Herodotus: The Father of History, by Elizabeth Vandiver (24 lectures) Postscript added Sept 24, 2019: One story told by Herodotus I found of particular interest—he reported being told of a Phoenician ship that circumnavigated around Africa (a.k.a. Libya in Herodotus’ era). This would have occurred about 2,000 years prior to Vasco da Gama. I was amazed to learn this, but Herodotus referenced the incident only as a reason for concluding that Africa was a smaller continent than Europe. Herodotus said the Phoenicians reported that the sun passed to the north of the ship while they were in the southern part of Africa—Herodotus believed this to be impossible. Ironically, Herodotus referenced the report of a northern sun as a reason for doubting to whole story, whereas today we recognize it as a reason to conclude that the reported circumnavigation to be credible.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul Christensen

    Unreal book, at the intersection of Greek, Lydian, Persian and Egyptian history, and at the intersection of history and legend. Full of fascinating anecdotes and surmises, signs and wonders.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Haspel

    “Herodotus was the Father of History.” Fans of The English Patient will remember how often the main character, the enigmatic Hungarian count-turned-archaeologist László de Almásy, utters those words (quoting Cicero in the process). Indeed, Almásy’s personal copy of Herodotus’ Histories, with mementoes from various periods of his life pasted inside, becomes the key to his story of an ill-fated love affair amidst the turmoil of war. And more than 2000 years after Herodotus of Halicarnassus first s “Herodotus was the Father of History.” Fans of The English Patient will remember how often the main character, the enigmatic Hungarian count-turned-archaeologist László de Almásy, utters those words (quoting Cicero in the process). Indeed, Almásy’s personal copy of Herodotus’ Histories, with mementoes from various periods of his life pasted inside, becomes the key to his story of an ill-fated love affair amidst the turmoil of war. And more than 2000 years after Herodotus of Halicarnassus first set down his history of the major states and empires of the Mediterranean basin from the beginnings of recorded history, students of history still turn to Herodotus to learn how history should be written. The Father of History he remains. When Herodotus wrote the Histories in 440 B.C., the Persian Wars were just forty years in the past, like the Vietnam conflict for Americans today; accordingly, it is no surprise that Herodotus opens the Histories by describing the thematic terms in which he plans to frame his work of history: “Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not be forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds – some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians – may not be without their glory; and especially to explain why the two peoples fought with each other.” (p. 3) Please note that Herodotus is engaging in a task of inquiry-based learning. Like all the good historians who have come after him, he is not starting with an axe to grind; he plans to ask questions and see where the factually correct and truthful answers take him. He focuses upon observable facts from his time – the recent conflict between Greek and non-Greek states, and specifically between Greece and Persia – and works to ascertain where the original causes of those conflicts may be found. The reader notes also Herodotus’ determination to be fair-minded, and to assign credit or blame wherever it is legitimately due. Herodotus was not only a diligent researcher but also a seasoned traveler; accordingly, he writes with the authority of lived experience and observation in passages like the one where he comments on what various writers have claimed regarding the Nile River in Egypt: “I have observed for myself that Egypt at the Nile Delta projects into the sea beyond the coast on either side; I have seen shells on the hills and noticed how salt exudes from the soil to such an extent that it affects even the pyramids” (p. 99). Herodotus offers comparably extensive description of local customs, as when he describes various tribes of Libya. The women of the Adrymachidae “wear a bronze ring on each leg, and grow their hair long; when they catch a bug on their persons, they give it bite for bite before throwing it away” (p. 299). The Macae, by contrast, “wear their hair in the form of a crest, shaving it close on either side of the head and letting it grow long in the middle; in war they carry ostrich skins for shields” (p. 301). Among the many features of classical historiography that Herodotus seems to have given the world is the tradition of reproducing important speeches at full length, even when it is not clear who the contemporary authority for the speech is, or how accurately the speech was transcribed. A characteristic example occurs when the Achaemenid emperor Cambyses II responds to a prophecy that someone named Smerdis will usurp the throne by having his own brother Smerdis murdered – only to learn afterwards that a real rebellion against him is being fomented by two Magi, one of whose name is Smerdis! Fatally wounded by an accidental sword injury, Cambyses still has time to give a long speech in which, among other things, he takes responsibility for what he has done: “Failing to grasp the true nature of what was in store for me, I murdered my brother for nothing, and have lost my kingdom just the same” (p. 199). For modern readers, a highlight of the Histories is likely to be Herodotus’ account of how the Athenians under the leadership of Miltiades defeated the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Herodotus’ pride in the Athenians’ valour is palpable in passages like the one where he describes how “the Athenians came on, closed with the enemy all along the line, and fought in a way not to be forgotten; they were the first Greeks, so far as we know, to charge at a run, and the first who dared to look without flinching at Persian dress and the men who wore it; for until that day came, no Greek could hear even the word ‘Persian’ without terror” (p. 401). Reading that passage made me think of how many American historians of the Revolutionary War, particularly during the early 19th century, emphasized the way Americans' hearts swelled with pride as George Washington’s Continental Army showed itself capable of standing up to tough British regulars in the war’s early battles such as Lexington/Concord and Bunker Hill. No doubt those historians had read their Herodotus as part of their classical education; consciously or unconsciously, they emulated Herodotus’ structure and approach in their own work. True, the casualty figures that Herodotus cites for the battle of Marathon – 6400 casualties for the Persians, to only 192 for the Athenians – may seem, from the Greek perspective, too good to be true; but the historical importance of the event, and of the way in which Herodotus recounted the event, nonetheless remains evident. (Please note, however, that you will not find in Herodotus the well-known story of Pheidippides, the courier who is said to have made the 26-mile, 385-yard-long run from Marathon to Athens, gasping out to the waiting Athenians the words “Joy to you, we’ve won!” before falling dead. For that story, you must go to the Roman author Lucian, writing 500 years later.) Herodotus’ account of how the Spartans, under the leadership of their warrior-king Leonidas, defended the pass of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., at the height of the Second Persian War, is another highlight of the Histories that is likely to resonate with many modern readers, especially in this era when the Spartan heroes of the Frank Miller graphic novel 300 (1998) and its two film adaptations have established a firm foothold in modern popular culture. Herodotus emphasizes the arrogance of the Persian emperor Xerxes in dismissing the warnings of the exiled Spartan king Demaratus that “You have now to deal with the finest kingdom in Greece, and with the bravest men” (p. 489). (Xerxes comes across as a thoroughly evil man in the Histories; the story of the cruelty he inflicted when his passion for the wife of his brother Masistes went unfulfilled is blood-chilling.) One of the finest passages of narrative and descriptive writing in the Histories – one that has no doubt inspired many writers of military history in the 2400 years since Herodotus composed this work – sets forth the climax of the battle of Thermopylae, after the Spartans have been betrayed by one Ephialtes, a Greek who showed the Persians a mountain track that would enable them to render the defence of the pass impossible: “As the Persian army advanced to the assault, the Greeks under Leonidas, knowing that they were going to their deaths, went out into the wider part of the pass much further than they had done before; in the previous days’ fighting they had been holding the wall and making sorties from behind it into the narrow neck, but now they fought outside the narrows. Many of the barbarians fell; behind them the company commanders plied their whips indiscriminately, driving the men on. Many fell into the sea and were drowned, and still more were trampled to death by one another. No one could count the number of the dead. The Greeks, who knew that the enemy were on their way round by the mountain track and that death was inevitable, put forth all their strength and fought with fury and desperation. By this time most of their spears were broken, and they were killing Persians with their swords. In the course of that fight Leonidas fell, having fought most gallantly…” (pp. 493-94) And Herodotus includes the epitaphs inscribed at Thermopylae after the Greek victory in the war – one that has been reproduced as a modern stone inscription, for present-day visitors to the pass: Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι. “Go tell the Spartans, you who read: We took their orders, and here lie dead.” (p. 495) It is perhaps the most famous passage in all the Histories, and one that has unquestionably had a profound influence on the way later historians have written about similar battles in later years. For American readers, the battles of the Alamo and the Little Bighorn are likely to stand out as relevant examples. The continuing influence of Herodotus’ Histories can be easily seen in many areas of modern life. Students of the American Civil War, for example, will recall that Shelby Foote, in composing his epic three-volume history The Civil War: A Narrative (1958-74), consciously drew upon his own reading of Herodotus in crafting a work of history that is truly Herodotean in its storytelling sweep and stylistic grace. And because I grew up in Cold War times, I recall how often American leaders during the Cold War spoke of an “inevitable conflict” between West and East, between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. And I wonder how many of those leaders had read their Herodotus and had been influenced by his presentation of the “inevitable conflicts” of his time – between West and East, between Hellenes and “barbarians,” between the Greek city-states and the Persian Empire. As long as the history of nations and their wars is set down, Herodotus and his Histories will continue to exert that sort of influence.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Years ago, I was on jury duty in LA. This was back when jury duty largely consisted of waiting around in a large room each day for a week. I brought along a copy of The Histories (the Rawlinson translation published by Everyman's Library) and found myself engrossed by all the stories, tall tales, gossip, rumors, etc. It's a wonderful panoply that's on offer here! Sure, Herodotus was criticized by many for not writing "facts," but the power of stories is far greater, and he knew it. Years ago, I was on jury duty in LA. This was back when jury duty largely consisted of waiting around in a large room each day for a week. I brought along a copy of The Histories (the Rawlinson translation published by Everyman's Library) and found myself engrossed by all the stories, tall tales, gossip, rumors, etc. It's a wonderful panoply that's on offer here! Sure, Herodotus was criticized by many for not writing "facts," but the power of stories is far greater, and he knew it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    If you are an English speaker there is no reason for you to consider buying any other edition of this text. Brilliantly translated, filled with just the right amount of footnotes, maps and pictures, and there is an appendix for pretty much everything you could think of.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

    "When the moment finally came to declare their purpose, the Babylonians, in order to reduce the consumption of food, herded together and strangled all the women in the city - each man exempting only his mother, and one other woman whom he chose out of his household to bake his bread for him." As the British Government bludgeons the nation with its ideologically-driven 'Austerity Budget', note that the ancients had a strategy or two for surviving straitened times themselves. And they managed to pr "When the moment finally came to declare their purpose, the Babylonians, in order to reduce the consumption of food, herded together and strangled all the women in the city - each man exempting only his mother, and one other woman whom he chose out of his household to bake his bread for him." As the British Government bludgeons the nation with its ideologically-driven 'Austerity Budget', note that the ancients had a strategy or two for surviving straitened times themselves. And they managed to protect 'front-line' services. Who doesn't like to wake up to the smell of freshly-baked rolls? Now, how does one get one's hands on Theresa May? "...As for Samos, the Persians took the entire population like fish in a drag-net, and presented Syloson with an empty island. Some years later, however, Otanes contracted some sort of disease of the genital organs and that, in conjunction with a dream he had, induced him to repopulate the place." Seriously. Wtf?! I mean, who hasn't dreamed of personally repopulating an island [I know I have:], but just how fertile does a guy have to be that an std leaves him debilitated to the degree that he can only re-seed an entire race like some Zeus on the loose? I thought all these dudes preferred boys so what's with that? If I didn't know Herodotus had such a downer on hearsay I'd swear someone was pulling his leg. "...for I have never heard of a man who after an unbroken run of luck was not finally brought to complete ruin. Now I suggest that you deal with the danger of your continual successes in the following way: think of whatever it is you value most - whatever you would most regret the loss of - and throw it away: throw it right away, so that nobody can ever see it again. If, after that, you do not find that success alternates with failure then go on using the remedy I have advised." Harsh. "...He was blind for ten years, after which he received an oracle from the city of Buto to the effect that the time of his punishment being now ended, he would recover his sight, if he washed his eyes with the urine of a woman who had never lain with any man except her husband. He tried his wife first, but without success - he remained as blind as ever." Jeez, there has to be an easier way to discover you're a cuckold.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    I can see why this book is held in such esteem; for the first time the acts of men are looked at through the optics of investigative inquiry - "Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances" is still the lesson we seem to learn and forget every decade - "Circumstance is the hub of the wheel; men are the spokes that provide traction through connection to the felloes of history" is what this book has taught me. I can see why this book is held in such esteem; for the first time the acts of men are looked at through the optics of investigative inquiry - "Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances" is still the lesson we seem to learn and forget every decade - "Circumstance is the hub of the wheel; men are the spokes that provide traction through connection to the felloes of history" is what this book has taught me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Talk about an on point beard! A surprisingly fun read and certainly worth it for historical significance alone. Talk about an on point beard! A surprisingly fun read and certainly worth it for historical significance alone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Krolby Kagan

    If Herodotus only kept to his main story, the growth of Persia and its eventual halt by Greece, the book would probably be only 200 pages long. Thank God he didn't do this. The Histories is a narration of the known world and the people living in it. When introducing a new character, even unimportant ones, he gives very interesting backstories. One of my favourite stories is about Cleisthenes of Sicyon who organized a competition whose winner was to marry his daughter Agariste. Cleisthenes tests If Herodotus only kept to his main story, the growth of Persia and its eventual halt by Greece, the book would probably be only 200 pages long. Thank God he didn't do this. The Histories is a narration of the known world and the people living in it. When introducing a new character, even unimportant ones, he gives very interesting backstories. One of my favourite stories is about Cleisthenes of Sicyon who organized a competition whose winner was to marry his daughter Agariste. Cleisthenes tests the suitors' courage, character, education and manners by spending time with them for a year. Some Athenian guy named Hippoclides pleases the tyrant of Sicyon the most, but then he does something very embarrassing. He dances on a table and then dances while standing on his head, like modern breakdancers. Cleisthenes doesn't want this man to marry his daughter anymore and says: "Son of Tisander, you have danced your marriage away." Hippoclides has the greatest comeback in history and simply replies: "Hippoclides doesn't care!" as if he participated in the competition for a year just to have fun and party. You might wonder what this story has to do with Persia's conquest of Greece. Well, not a lot. Cleisthenes is just an ancestor of the important statesman and general Pericles, who doesn't have anything to do with the main story either. Herodotus doesn't just narrate about individuals, but also about whole nations. Book 2 focuses mainly on Egypt. Herodotus tells about its geography, the animals living in the country, the religion, its culture and its history. The Egyptians have customs which seem very weird to Herodotus. He explains a typical Egyptian party: "After the meal at a party of well-to-do Egyptians, a man carries round the room in a coffin a corpse made of wood, which has been painted and carved so as to be as lifelike as possible, and whose length is about a cubit or two. The man shows the corpse to all the guests, one by one, while saying: 'Look on this while you drink, for this will be your lot when you are dead'. That is what happens at Egyptian parties." Especially the last remark seems really funny to me. I can see a hint of distate in this sentence. Herodotus doesn't just write down what he has heard, he also comments whether he thinks the story could be real or is fabricated. That's really great about him. He writes like a real scientist who doesn't just believe everything he's been told. It's really a great book and I recommend everyone to read it. You will learn a lot about how people used to live.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Herodotus tells a story of how Croesus, King of Lydia, the richest and 
most favored leader of his time, asked Solon the Athenian, a leading question.
 He would not have asked it if he had he not been worried about the answer.
'Who, he asked, 'is the luckiest person in the world?' He must have been eaten
 with doubt, and hungry for reassurance. Solon told him of three lucky people in
 old times. And Croesus more than likely did not listen; so anxious was he 
about himself. And when Solon did not Herodotus tells a story of how Croesus, King of Lydia, the richest and 
most favored leader of his time, asked Solon the Athenian, a leading question.
 He would not have asked it if he had he not been worried about the answer.
'Who, he asked, 'is the luckiest person in the world?' He must have been eaten
 with doubt, and hungry for reassurance. Solon told him of three lucky people in
 old times. And Croesus more than likely did not listen; so anxious was he 
about himself. And when Solon did not mention him, Croesus was forced to say, 'Do
 you consider me lucky?' Solon did not hesitate in his answer. 'How can I 
tell?' he said. 'You aren't dead yet.' Later, Croesus sent to the great Oracle at Delphi to know whether he should go to war against the Persians, and the oracle replied: "If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire." Pleased by this answer, Croesus made his necessary alliances and preparations and went out to meet the Persian army. Croesus and his troops were defeated. Croesus’ wife committed suicide and Croesus was dragged before King Cyrus in chains. Croesus figured out that the great empire that would be destroyed would be his own, not the Persian. Most modern-day scholars and historians believe that Croesus died on the pyre where he was placed by Cyrus. Herodotus opines: "No one is stupid enough to prefer war to peace; in peace sons bury their fathers and in war fathers bury their sons." But the Greeks were great believers in fate, so he adds "However, I suppose the god must have wanted this to happen."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    “These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, in the hope of preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the barbarians from losing their due meed of glory; and withal to put on record what were the grounds of feud.” Herodotus’s reference to his “researches” (sometimes translated “inquiries”) uses the Greek word historie, from which we get “history.” This is the first recorded use o “These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, in the hope of preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the barbarians from losing their due meed of glory; and withal to put on record what were the grounds of feud.” Herodotus’s reference to his “researches” (sometimes translated “inquiries”) uses the Greek word historie, from which we get “history.” This is the first recorded use of the word.  The main subject of The Histories is the twenty years (499-479 B.C.E) of war between Greece and Persia. Herodotus begins by presenting the alleged origins of enmity between Greece and Persia in mythic times. He adds Persian and Phoenician accounts that he has heard to Greek ones. These stories have to do with the abduction of women. According to the Persians, the Phoenicians began the quarrel by carrying off the Greek woman Io and taking her to Egypt. The Greeks retaliated by abducting the woman Europa from the Phoenicians, and later they carried off Medea of Colchis, which motivated Paris to abduct Helen. Herodotus says that the Persians trace their enmity toward the Greeks back to the Trojan War. The Phoenicians, on the other hand, insist that Io left willingly.  After summarizing these stories, Herodotus says that he will not discuss further which account is correct, and changes the subject to historical causes more recent than the legendary past: “I prefer to rely on my own knowledge, and to point out who it was in actual fact that first injured the Greeks…” Herodotus traces the beginning of the conflict to when Croesus of Lydia conquered the Greek towns of Asia, but Books I - IV focus on other issues. Most of this part of the book is concerned with geographical accounts, stories of notable people, and ethnographies of the peoples ruled by the Persians. Some scientific issues also come up, such as the cause of the flooding of the Nile. Starting with Book V, in which the Persians suppress the rebellion of the local Greek population in Persian territory (the Ionian Revolt) the narrative becomes more tightly focused.   Herodotus is a moralist; he presents the story of the Persian Wars as a story of how the hubris of the Persian rulers leads to their defeat, and demonstrates how “the god with his lightning smites always the bigger animals, and will not suffer them to wax insolent… likewise his bolts fall ever on the highest houses and the tallest trees” (Bk VII). The website Livius.org has commentaries that I found really helpful when I was reading this.  http://www.livius.org/articles/person... The website also has an interesting essay, “The Significance of Marathon” on the historiography of the battle of Marathon, which occurs in Book VI. “It is often said that the battle of Marathon was one of the few really decisive battles in history. The truth, however, is that we cannot establish this with certainty. Still, the fight had important consequences: it gave rise to the idea that East and West were opposites, an idea that has survived until the present day, in spite of the fact that 'Marathon' has become the standard example to prove that historians can better refrain from such bold statements.” Some great reviews by other readers on GR: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... (this one’s pretty funny) some highlights: Bk I: The story of Croesus & Solon & Cyrus - The wealthy king of Lydia, Croesus, urges Solon, the Athenian lawgiver [magistrate] to admit that he is the happiest of men. (Croesus at this point as captured nearly all the Greek towns along the west coast of Asia.) Solon warns him that no one can be called happy until he ends his life well. “Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate. Scarcely, indeed, can any man unite all these advantages: as there is no country which contains within it all that it needs, but each, while it possesses some things, lacks others, and the best country is that which contains the most; so no single human being is complete in every respect — something is always lacking. He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, in my judgment, is entitled to bear the name of ‘happy.’ But in every matter it behooves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin.”   Croesus dismisses Solon’s answer, “since he thought that a man must be an arrant fool who made no account of the present good, but bade men always wait and mark the end.” Croesus suffers for his arrogance when his son Atys is accidentally killed in a boar hunt. Croesus later attacks Cappadocia, part of the empire of Cyrus the Great (and part of modern Turkey). In the conflict that follows, Cyrus captures the city of Sardis. Croesus's other son is killed in the fighting, trying to protect his father, and Croesus is captured. Croesus tells Cyrus the story of Solon's warning to him years before, and how everything had turned out exactly as Solon had said, although it was nothing that especially concerned him, but applied to all mankind alike, and most to those who seemed to themselves happy... Then Cyrus, hearing what Croesus had said, relented, bethinking himself that he too was a man, and that he was a fellow man, and one who had once been as blessed by fortune as himself, that he was burning alive; afraid, moreover, of retribution, and full of the thought that whatever is human is insecure. So he bade them quench the blazing fire as quickly as they could, and take down Croesus and the other Lydians, which they tried to do, but the flames were not to be mastered.” Croesus prays to Apollo and a rainstorm extinguishes the flames. Cyrus, “convinced by this that Croesus was a good man and a favourite of heaven” asked him after he was taken off the pile, "'Who it was that had persuaded him to lead an army into his country, and so become his foe rather than continue his friend?' 'What I did, oh! king, was to thy advantage and to my own loss. If there be blame, it rests with the god of the Greeks, who encouraged me to begin the war. No one is so foolish as to prefer war to peace, in which, instead of sons burying their fathers, fathers bury their sons. But the gods willed it so.” Bk II: Herodotus’s story about Indian burial customs: “… if one were to offer men to choose out of all the customs in the world as seemed to them the best, they would examine the whole number, and end by preferring their own; so convinced are they that their own usages surpass those of all others. Unless, therefore, a man was mad, it is not likely that he would make sport of such matters. That people have this feeling about their own laws may be seen by many proofs; among others, the following. Darius, after he had got the kingdom, called into his presence certain Greeks who were at hand, and asked -- 'What he should pay them to eat the bodies of their fathers when they died?' To which they answered, that there was no sum that would tempt them to do such a thing. He then sent for certain Indians, of the race called Callatians, men who eat their fathers, and asked them, while the Greeks stood by, and knew by the help of an interpreter all that was said -- 'What he should give them to burn the bodies of their fathers at their decease?' The Indians exclaimed aloud, and bade him forbear such language.” Bk III: Sosicles of Corinth’s response to the Spartans, who at this point in the narrative plan to reinstate a tyrant in Athens. Sparta’s allies are skeptical of the plan, but only Sosicles the Corinthian argues against it: “Surely the heaven will soon be below, and the earth above, and men will henceforth live in the sea, and fish take their place upon the dry land, since you, Lacedaemonians [another name for the Spartans] propose to put down free governments in the cities of Greece, and set up tyrannies in their room. There is nothing in the whole world so unjust, so bloody, as a tyranny. If, however, it seems to you a desirable thing to have the cities under despotic rule, begin by putting a tyrant over yourselves, and then establish despots in other states… If you knew what tyranny was as well as ourselves, you would be better advised than you now are in regard to it.” Sosicles then tells of how Corinth was once ruled by an oligarchy, before it became democratic. Bk VII: The battle of Thermopylae  “And now there arose a fierce struggle between the Persians and the Lacedaemonians over the body of Leonidas, in which the Greeks four times drove back the enemy, and at last by their great bravery succeeded in bearing off the body. This combat was scarcely ended when the Persians with Ephialtes approached; and the Greeks, informed that they drew nigh, made a change in the manner of their fighting. Drawing back into the narrowest part of the pass, and retreating even behind the cross wall, they posted themselves upon a hillock, where they stood all drawn up together in one close body, except only the Thebans. The hillock whereof I speak is at the entrance of the straits, where the stone lion stands which was set up in honour of Leonidas. Here they defended themselves to the last, such as still had swords using them, and the others resisting with their hands and teeth; till the barbarians, who in part had pulled down the wall and attacked them in front, in part had gone round and now encircled them upon every side, overwhelmed and buried the remnant which was left beneath showers of missile weapons. Thus nobly did the whole body of Lacedaemonians and Thespians behave; but nevertheless one man is said to have distinguished himself above all the rest, to wit, Dieneces the Spartan. A speech which he made before the Greeks engaged the Medes, remains on record. One of the Trachinians told him, ‘Such was the number of the barbarians, that when they shot forth their arrows the sun would be darkened by their multitude.’ Dieneces, not at all frightened at these words, but making light of the Median numbers, answered ‘Our Trachinian friend brings us excellent tidings. If the Medes darken the sun, we shall have our fight in the shade.’ ” Bk VIII: Xerxes reflects on the passage of time:  “And now, as he looked and saw the whole Hellespont covered with the vessels of his fleet, and all the shore and every plain about Abydos as full as possible of men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good fortune; but after a little while he wept.  Then Artabanus, the king’s uncle (the same who at the first spake so freely against the king, and advised him not to lead his army against Greece) when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said: ‘How different, sire, is what thou art now doing, from what thou didst a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now, behold! thou weepest.’ ‘There came upon me,’ replied he, ‘a sudden pity, when I thought of the shortness of man’s life, and considered that of all this host, numerous as it is, not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by.’ ‘And yet there are sadder things in life than that,’ returned the other. ‘Short as our time is, there is no man, whether it be here among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy, as not to have felt the wish — I will not say once, but full many a time — that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us; sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race; and God, who gives the tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be envious.’” 

  21. 5 out of 5

    saïd

    This review is of the translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt.As the old cherished translations of great works—the Rosemary Edmonds War and Peace, the E.V. Rieu Homer, the Dorothy Sayers Divine Comedy, and so on—begin to feel almost imperceptibly dated around the edges. If they’re particularly beloved, the editors might attempt a facelift, bringing in some scholar to write a new Introduction and revise the old translation, maybe providing new notes. But such things are delaying actions only; general This review is of the translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt.As the old cherished translations of great works—the Rosemary Edmonds War and Peace, the E.V. Rieu Homer, the Dorothy Sayers Divine Comedy, and so on—begin to feel almost imperceptibly dated around the edges. If they’re particularly beloved, the editors might attempt a facelift, bringing in some scholar to write a new Introduction and revise the old translation, maybe providing new notes. But such things are delaying actions only; generally speaking, every age tends to demand its own translations of the canon. — Steve Donoghue(I would like to note, for the record, that Rieu's translation of the Iliad is a monstrosity and I despise it.) Aubrey de Sélincourt's translation of Arrian's Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἀνάβασις | Anabasis Alexandri is one of the best, and his translation of Ἰστορίαι almost makes me hate Herodotus a bit less. Well. Almost. Justin Marozzi, reviewing a different translation of the same text, mentions that, in terms of translations of Herodotus, there have been:[...] none more elegant than those of Aubrey de Sélincourt, whose delightful translation readers have loved and admired since it appeared in 1954.I can't say I disagree.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Although he is the very first historian in Western Civilization, Herodotus has something of a bad reputation for being too gullible. Current critical opinion tends to favor Herodotus's near contemporary, Thucydides, the author of an equally great history of The Peloponnesian War. And yet, as I re-read the earlier book, I was surprised that Herodotus frequently notes that he doesn't always believe what he has been told, but presents it anyhow, if only because the Greek word for "history" is the s Although he is the very first historian in Western Civilization, Herodotus has something of a bad reputation for being too gullible. Current critical opinion tends to favor Herodotus's near contemporary, Thucydides, the author of an equally great history of The Peloponnesian War. And yet, as I re-read the earlier book, I was surprised that Herodotus frequently notes that he doesn't always believe what he has been told, but presents it anyhow, if only because the Greek word for "history" is the same as the Greek word for "investigation." There is something of the ethnologist in Herodotus: He is an Ionian from Halicarnassus, a people who have had a much longer acquaintance with the Persians, Medes, Assyrians, and other peoples of the East than the mainland Greeks. The first five of the nine books of The Histories are mostly a survey of the peoples who allied themselves with Darius and Xerxes in their invasions of Greece. It is here that most of the outlandish anecdotes are concentrated, in his investigations of such peoples as the Egyptians, Libyans, and Scythians. Once the invasions themselves begins, his history becomes more exciting, with fewer digressions and greater plausibility. I would recommend that readers take the first five books slowly and savor the strangeness. Once the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, Plataea and Mycale had been fought, Herodotus showed himself to be a true Greek and one fiercely proud of his heritage.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    How to review Herodotus? It's much like trying to review the Bible. Most would probably say something like, "I liked the blood and guts and stories about the cheating wives of kings; the genealogies were boring." But I found the entire book utterly captivating. It's something special to be able to lose yourself in a world that's completely different from your own, that has a rich history of its own with strange characters and stranger frontiers. Herodotus is truly a child of the world, marveling How to review Herodotus? It's much like trying to review the Bible. Most would probably say something like, "I liked the blood and guts and stories about the cheating wives of kings; the genealogies were boring." But I found the entire book utterly captivating. It's something special to be able to lose yourself in a world that's completely different from your own, that has a rich history of its own with strange characters and stranger frontiers. Herodotus is truly a child of the world, marveling at its every wonder. To the modern reader, much of what he writes is quaintly naive (and at times pretty racist). For instance, when describing Indians (a people he located in the very northwestern part of what we now know as India), he says that they "dwell farthest to the east and closest to the sunrise. For east of the Indians lies an uninhabitable desert of nothing but sand." (3.98.2) These Indians also "have intercourse out in the open just like animals" and "the seed they ejaculate into their wives is not white like that of the rest of men, but black like their skin and like the semen of the Ethiopians." (3.101.1-2) And in describing the land of Egypt, he constantly spews wildly inaccurate exoticisms. He describes the symbiotic relationship between an alligator and a plover (bird); the alligator, who is the most vicious creature in the world, opens its mouth to let the plover eat the leeches from his gums (not true, despite the misinformation still circling today, even). There is a report of ants that are smaller than dogs but larger than foxes who gather gold out of the desert. He tells a story about a race of one-eyed men who steal gold from gold-hoarding griffins, but he discounts the story because he can't believe in the existence of one-eyed men (the eagle-headed lion, however, he has no trouble accepting.) Herodotus's histories are great fodder for contemporary literature. I have no doubt that every story that could be told had already been told by the time of Herodotus. The influence of literature like this is most plainly seen in fantasy works; after all, the ancient Greeks lived in a fantasy world, where gods wreaked havoc and monsters resided in the shadows. George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire would never have existed without Herodotus and the works of his peers. His tyrants, whores, valiant knights, plots of political intrigue and betrayal, may very well have all been lifted right off the papyri of these ancient texts. And no one could blame him for doing so. This is good stuff. So Herodotus is truly a child of the world, marveling at its every wonder. But if he's so gullible, can we really call this history? My answer is that I don't really care what you call it. This is better than history. It's entertaining, it's fascinating, it's educational at times. Much like the Bible, it's got a bit of everything. It's a collage of knowledge, ancient rumors, wild speculation, and bewildering stories, that's begging out to be read and enjoyed by even such a removed generation as ours. P.S. A quick note on the Landmark edition, translated by Andrea L. Purvis and edited by Robert B. Strassler. With all these maps and appendices and copious footnotes, why would you ever read a different edition? It's well worth it to shell out a few more bones for this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    saïd

    This review is of the translation by Andrea L. Purvis. The Landmark Herodotus is sexyyy. Andrea L. Purvis's translation is pretty solid. I was impressed with the quality of the translation, but it still isn't comparable to Robin Waterfield's translation. Ambiguous statements are footnoted, and the diction is clear and precise. This edition's value comes primarily from the notes (what can I say, I love a good footnote) and the map inserts providing geographic context—there are over 120 maps includ This review is of the translation by Andrea L. Purvis. The Landmark Herodotus is sexyyy. Andrea L. Purvis's translation is pretty solid. I was impressed with the quality of the translation, but it still isn't comparable to Robin Waterfield's translation. Ambiguous statements are footnoted, and the diction is clear and precise. This edition's value comes primarily from the notes (what can I say, I love a good footnote) and the map inserts providing geographic context—there are over 120 maps included in this edition, and every mentioned place name or other location is annotated and referenced on its corresponding map. The 21 appendices are also fascinating, and provide much-needed context concerning the background surrounding Herodotus's travelogue. The introduction—written by Dr. Rosalind Thomas, author of Literacy and Orality in Ancient Greece—is great. Overall this is a very accessible and comprehensive edition.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Oh Herodotus, in some ways I feel like he was my college roommate - fore I spent that much time with him... very enjoyable reading from the "Father of History" about the spread of Hellenism and the Persian empire. Read for my senior thesis in undergrad - it was good to read these classics. Oh Herodotus, in some ways I feel like he was my college roommate - fore I spent that much time with him... very enjoyable reading from the "Father of History" about the spread of Hellenism and the Persian empire. Read for my senior thesis in undergrad - it was good to read these classics.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    More Infinite Jest than The History of the Peloponnesian War. Honest. Wish I had the Landmark edition at the time. But Oxford does make nice books.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This book merits five stars because it truly represents the starting point of Western historical writing. Herodotus asks all the basic questions that historians are supposed to when confronted with a source. Is the account truthful? If you think that it is not truthful do you ignore the information provided or use it and share your reserves with the reader? The best of historians will occasionally reject truthful accounts and accept lies as truthful. The point is that Herodotus is clearly adopti This book merits five stars because it truly represents the starting point of Western historical writing. Herodotus asks all the basic questions that historians are supposed to when confronted with a source. Is the account truthful? If you think that it is not truthful do you ignore the information provided or use it and share your reserves with the reader? The best of historians will occasionally reject truthful accounts and accept lies as truthful. The point is that Herodotus is clearly adopting a critical stance towards all his sources even if he errs in places. The modern reader is most likely to be concerned in those places where Herodotus appears to accept myths and legends as being historically accurate. In the defense of Herodotus, myths and legends have sometimes proven to contain historically accurate material. Until archaeologists discovered Troy and Mycenae in the 19th century, many had thought that these two cities existed only in legend and literature. Similarly the Norse sagas describing a Viking settlement in North America were considered to be legends or works of fiction until a Norse settlement was discovered at L'Anse aux Meduses in Newfoundland in the 1950's. Moreover, it must be pointed out that in places Herodotus expresses a great deal of skepticism about the religious beliefs and practices of his era. He expresses a great deal of frustration about Oracles. He describes there pronouncements as typically being unintelligible. Moreover he suggests that in time, the Oracles appear to have consciously made inaccurate pronouncements. Herodotus notes that that the myths about the Olympian Gods vary considerably from city to city as do the actual names of the Gods. He points out that the geographic origins of many of the names of the deities are hard to definitively identify. Herodotus does not attack religion and superstition in the manner of the 18th Century enlightenment philosophers but he has a very critical view of the religion of his civilization. What one gets in the Histories of Herodotus, is a well organized account of the Persian Wars written by a man trying to lay the ground rules for historical investigation as he goes. The result is a great classic of Western literature and history. Read it for its good points and do be distracted in places where it appears to fail modern standards for historical writing. All historians owe a debt to Herodotus who laid a great foundation for history which is after all an art not a science.

  28. 5 out of 5

    saïd

    This review is of the translation by Robin Waterfield. I love how all the primary sources we have for this period of history were written by some guys who just made shit up. Herodotus? Father of lies. Livy? Openly biased. Polybius? A taste for the embellished. Historians as a whole should go back to just bullshitting things within living memory. It's so amusing. Incredibly frustrating from an historiographic perspective, yes. Very funny, also yes. Robin Waterfield's translation of Herodotus is exc This review is of the translation by Robin Waterfield. I love how all the primary sources we have for this period of history were written by some guys who just made shit up. Herodotus? Father of lies. Livy? Openly biased. Polybius? A taste for the embellished. Historians as a whole should go back to just bullshitting things within living memory. It's so amusing. Incredibly frustrating from an historiographic perspective, yes. Very funny, also yes. Robin Waterfield's translation of Herodotus is excellent. Complete with appreciable notes and copious commentary by Carolyn Dewald, the translation is very faithful to the meaning of the original Ancient Greek, although sacrificing some of the syntax (as is to be expected). One complaint many have had is the way Waterfield includes more sentence/paragraph breaks than in the original (Herodotus was a rather prolix orator), often turning a single long elaborate sentence into a handful of shorter ones, but, without the strict syntax of the original Greek, this is probably the best option for studying the text. Comparatively, Waterfield's translation is more technically accurate than most other translations, including the Landmark Herodotus (which I'd recommend for the supplementary material it contains, primarily essays and a large serving of maps; the footnotes are lacking, but the translation is relatively readable, despite many linguistic inaccuracies) and Pamela Mensch's translation (which is more accurate than the Landmark, and very literal; the translation itself is quite dull, but the notes, which are clearly geared towards high school-level students, are frequent). Enoch Powell's translation is painstakingly literal, but the furthest thing from readable, adopting an affectatious archaic idiolect (of the "thou art" variety); similarly, the Loeb edition, translated by A.D. Godley, is essentially useless unless you're comparing it against the original Greek, in which case it's fine.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joaco

    Superb book, it immersed me in ancient Greece. Herodotus skills are unmatched as a story teller, although the speeches are far better in Thucydides. Written at the outset of the Peloponnesian War this book comes across as Athenian propaganda some times. However, all the detail provided of the different civilizations the Greeks had contact with is just great. For anyone who enjoys reading on the subject this is a fun, thorough and excellently crafted book. Props to Herodotus for being more entertai Superb book, it immersed me in ancient Greece. Herodotus skills are unmatched as a story teller, although the speeches are far better in Thucydides. Written at the outset of the Peloponnesian War this book comes across as Athenian propaganda some times. However, all the detail provided of the different civilizations the Greeks had contact with is just great. For anyone who enjoys reading on the subject this is a fun, thorough and excellently crafted book. Props to Herodotus for being more entertaining than most modern writers.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Astyages had a daughter called Mandane, and he dreamed one night that she urinated in such enormous quantities that it filled his city and swamped the whole of Asia. These Landmark editions are an amazing resource. The Father of history reveals the story of the Persian Wars and by achieving such he contextualizes with anthropological glosses on all the relevant parties. Each succession, each tradition is explored. Is there speculation and conjecture? Well, of course. The approach aspires to an ob Astyages had a daughter called Mandane, and he dreamed one night that she urinated in such enormous quantities that it filled his city and swamped the whole of Asia. These Landmark editions are an amazing resource. The Father of history reveals the story of the Persian Wars and by achieving such he contextualizes with anthropological glosses on all the relevant parties. Each succession, each tradition is explored. Is there speculation and conjecture? Well, of course. The approach aspires to an objectivity, affording itself a modernity away from the paen or heroic song. Logistics becomes the order of the day, people grasp that such and not portents or divine favor are what matter. Internecine squabbling appears to be the yoke of civilization. The anecdotes which punctuate are the feats which resound. Accordingly the Psylli took counsel among themselves, and by common consent made war upon the southwind---so at least the Libyans say, I do but repeat their words---they went forth and reached the desert; but there the south-wind rose and buried them under heaps of sand: whereupon, the Psylli being destroyed, their lands passed to the Nasamonians. The maps which dominate the Landmark Edition are essential to grasping this sociology of war. The appendixes in the back of the tome were intriguing, particularly exploring the estimation of the sizes of the armies and the consequent impossibility of provisioning for such. I was rather familiar with these arguments, as Delbruck is adamant about the challenges of even feeding mid-sized minatory bands, much less what constitutes nations at war. Incredibly cumbersome, it has been one of the few benefits of the stay at home order: after work, there have few distractions to pull one away from Herodotus.

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