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Herodotus was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the fifth century BC. Herodotus is often called The Father of History, as he was the first writer to collect his materials systematically and critically, and to then arrange them into a historical narrative. The Histories - the only work produced by Herodotus – is thought to be the world’s firs Herodotus was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the fifth century BC. Herodotus is often called The Father of History, as he was the first writer to collect his materials systematically and critically, and to then arrange them into a historical narrative. The Histories - the only work produced by Herodotus – is thought to be the world’s first history book. The book is an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars.


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Herodotus was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the fifth century BC. Herodotus is often called The Father of History, as he was the first writer to collect his materials systematically and critically, and to then arrange them into a historical narrative. The Histories - the only work produced by Herodotus – is thought to be the world’s firs Herodotus was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the fifth century BC. Herodotus is often called The Father of History, as he was the first writer to collect his materials systematically and critically, and to then arrange them into a historical narrative. The Histories - the only work produced by Herodotus – is thought to be the world’s first history book. The book is an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars.

30 review for The Histories: Titan Classics (Illustrated)

  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

    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)

  3. 4 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. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم ماه آگوست سال 1972 میلادی عنوان: تاریخ هرودوت؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ ترجمه به انگلیسی: جرج راولین سن؛ تنظیم: ا.ج. اوانس؛ مترجم: غلامعلی وحید مازندرانی؛ تهران، علمی، 1324، در 24 و 211 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر، 1360، در هشت و 300 ص؛ 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؛ 1368؛ در 573 و 4 ص، مصور؛ شابک 9643461637؛ چاپ دوم 1368؛ چاپ سوم 1386؛ چاپ دیگر مشهد، خاتم، 1391؛ 612 ص؛ شابک 9786006153278؛ عنوان: تاریخ هرودوت؛ نویسنده: هرودوت؛ مترجم: مرتضی ثاقب فر؛ تهران، اساطیر، 1389، در دو جلد؛ شابک جلد یک 9789643314699؛ شابک جلد دوم 9789643314705؛ 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 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 سال 1858 میلادی منتشر کردند، در سال 1910 میلادی، 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 سال 1324 هجری 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 هربار 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 ست، و صفحاتش زرد شده است و چشمانم حروف انگلیسی ریز را خوب تشخیص نمیدهند، ولی میخوانم، این نوشته ی «هرودوت» شاهکاری ست، که هماره باقی خواهد ماند، تا به آیندگان یاد دهد تاریخ را چگونه بنویسند. ا. شربیانی

  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

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 4 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.

  12. 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.’” 

  13. 4 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cphe

    This was way outside of my comfort zone and I doubt if I'd have undertaken it if it hadn't been read as a group read. I went into it without any prior conceptions. I just thought it would be interesting, and it was. A long read and in parts a difficult read as I initially found it challenging to grasp the differing but similar sounding names. (it took some getting used to) However it was interesting, fascinating in parts learning of the cultures, mores, people who challenged and changed the world This was way outside of my comfort zone and I doubt if I'd have undertaken it if it hadn't been read as a group read. I went into it without any prior conceptions. I just thought it would be interesting, and it was. A long read and in parts a difficult read as I initially found it challenging to grasp the differing but similar sounding names. (it took some getting used to) However it was interesting, fascinating in parts learning of the cultures, mores, people who challenged and changed the world around them. Thought the attention given to detail quite staggering at times describing events, wars, armour, weaponry, customs and traditions. Difficult to comprehend that this was written over 2000 years ago.

  15. 4 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 5 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    During the fifth century B.C. Herodotus of Halicarnassus traveled the known world making inquiries and doing research on the origins and events of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks. This sizable text was the result and it includes what he referred to as enquiries but what encompasses much of what we would call history, sociology, anthropology, mythology and more. It is a wonderful narrative providing the essential background and events, including famous battles like Thermopylae and pr During the fifth century B.C. Herodotus of Halicarnassus traveled the known world making inquiries and doing research on the origins and events of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks. This sizable text was the result and it includes what he referred to as enquiries but what encompasses much of what we would call history, sociology, anthropology, mythology and more. It is a wonderful narrative providing the essential background and events, including famous battles like Thermopylae and profiles of great leaders on both sides including Themistocles, Darius and Xerxes. Perhaps the best way to convey the import of this book is to let Herodotus speak for himself. He opens the book thus: "Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks." Herodotus does not shy away from opinions about the events that he narrates; one of these opinions is related early in Book One: "I know that human happiness never remains long in the same place." This becomes more and more evident as one reads on through this excellent work. Reading it was an adventure into the history of the known world in that time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    An anthropological and historical survey of Ancient Greece and the Near East 26 April Located in the Ancient Agora in Athens, under the reconstructed Stoa (porch) of Herod Atticus, is a bust of what could be considered to be the world's first ever historian. It always fascinates me that in an era long before photography was ever conceived, and the ability to paint was restricted to basic drawings and sketches (if indeed they have survived), that because of the skill and ability of the ancient scu An anthropological and historical survey of Ancient Greece and the Near East 26 April Located in the Ancient Agora in Athens, under the reconstructed Stoa (porch) of Herod Atticus, is a bust of what could be considered to be the world's first ever historian. It always fascinates me that in an era long before photography was ever conceived, and the ability to paint was restricted to basic drawings and sketches (if indeed they have survived), that because of the skill and ability of the ancient sculptors we are able to have a good idea of what these ancient people looked like. As for me, when I wondered into the Stoa of Atticus on hot Greek summer sunday, I stood amazed before the bust of Herodotus and said to myself, 'so, he did have a beard'. Anyway, for those who have been dying to know where Frank Miller got the idea for these movies (and comic books from which the movies were adapted): then this is the book. In fact, Herodotus of Halicarnasus, in the opening paragraph, says that the purpose of this book is for the readers to understand the background to how these particular events occurred, namely the war between the Persians and the Greeks, which culminated in the battles of Thermopylae (300), Salamis (300: Rise of an Empire, though the movie is much, much, much more loosely based on the actual events than is 300) and Plataea (mentioned in passing at the end of 300). Oh, and I probably should also mention the battle of Marathon, where the Athenians managed to defeat the Persian landing party using the same tactics that Hannibal used to defeat the Romans at Cannae. Herodotus brings back a lot of memories for me though, especially sitting in Ancient Greek translating the entirety of book (or chapter) two, which is an 80 page exposition on the Egyptian culture (which, in my own opinion, is quite fascinating, particularly since he notices that the Egyptians practiced circumcision). Anyway, there have been a number of debates as to whether Herodotus is actually a history, or whether it is more of an anthropological text because he does spend an incredible amount of time exploring the culture and practices of many of the nations that live in the regions that he is interested in (namely everything to the east of Greece because, for some reason, in Herodotus' world, there is nothing all that much interesting to the west, despite the fact that at this time Rome did exist as a city – though he does mention Carthage and the Greek colonies in Sicily). They (and by they I pretty much mean everybody) refer to Herodotus as the 'Father of History' and in many ways that is the case. The original Greek title of the book is 'Historia' which, in Greek, means, well, a story or a tale, which is in many cases correct because it is the story, or the tale, of how we arrived at this particular point. Ignoring all of the distractions (and there are some pretty fascinating distractions at that) regarding the cultural behaviours of the people that Herodotus explores (for instance the Persians did not have market places, the Egyptians loved al-fresco dining, and the Scythians did not believe in marriage, but rather shared and shared alike), the whole purpose of this incredibly long (and fascinating) book is about the Third (or second, depending on whether you include the first attempted invasion of Greece where Darius' fleet was destroyed off the coast of Mount Athos) Persian War and the victory of the Greeks over the much more powerful Persian Empire (though one could say that this is not actually all that surprising considering that at the time the Persian Empire had reached the limits of its power). Another thing they (and by that I mean a handful of Classical Historians) say about Herodotus is that he is the 'Father of Lies'. Personally I thought that this is probably a little bit too harsh for the poor guy since the Bible refers to this guy: as the father of lies, and I won't throw in the picture of some politician as another comparison since, as everybody knows, all politicians lie for their own benefit. Anyway, back to Herodotus and as to why they refer to him as such. First of all it seems that it is because he writes about a number of things that he himself could simply not know about. This I feel may be a little strenuous because throughout his book Herodotus does indicate that he obtained much of his information from people who have been to those places or where witnesses to those events, and we also need to consider that back in those days the writers (especially the first Historian) did not need to quote sources in the same way that academics do today. The other reason that I suspect is probably because Herodotus is writing from an Hellenic point of view meaning that one could consider that much of his writings are little more than propaganda, exulting the Greeks above that of the other races. However the fact that Herodotus goes into enormous details in relation to the other cultures that existed around him at the time, I believe, is evidence against the idea that Herodotus is little more than an Ancient Greek propagandist. The final thing that I want to look at is Herodotus' relationship with the Bible. Okay, as far as I know nobody is using Herodotus as a means to disprove the accounts of the Old Testament because, well, he is neither here nor there with regards to the accounts in the Bible. For those who want to disprove the Bible, my position is that you are going to have to look elsewhere because the fact that Herodotus does not mention the Jewish nation is a pretty flimsy attack, especially since at the time of Herodotus' writing it was most likely around the time the Jews had returned from exile and were probably did not even appear on his radar. In fact, you will notice that Herodotus does not even mention the existence of the Philistines or any of the other tribes that inhabited the area (though we should note that when the Assyrians and Babylonians conquered Palestine they shifted the populations around so as to prevent nationalist uprisings). What we do have with regards to Herodotus and the Bible (with the exception of the three main kings of Persia, who are mentioned in both accounts) is the fall of Babylon. For those who believe that there is a difference (Herodotus mentions two incidents, though the second was a nationalist uprising against the Persian overlords) we need to consider the reasoning behind the two accounts. Herodotus is writing a detailed history of the Greco-Persian conflicts and in doing so is writing a history of the Persian Empire from its inception. One of the significant events in the rise of the Persian Empire was the fact that they managed to conquer the Babylonian Empire (who had previously held sway over the Middle East), and Herodotus goes into explicit details in how that happened. The Biblical account of the fall of the Babylonian Empire can be found in the book of Daniel (Chapter 5). Here we have what is in effect a very brief description of what happened, namely Belshazzar went to sleep (probably quite drunk) King of Babylon and work up a Persian slave. The reason that Daniel does not go into explicit detail in relation to the fall of Babylon is that he is not writing a history but rather a theological tract and in doing so he is demonstrating the power of God over the Earthly authorities. Up until that time nobody imagined that Babylon would fall. Even though at the time the Persian army was camped outside the gates of the city, nobody believed that they would be able to breach the walls. However, the Persians did manage to breach the walls and the Babylonian empire was overthrown. Daniel's purpose was not to say how it happened (most likely because his readers probably already knew how it happened) but rather he was showing God's hand in the event. What Herodotus shows us, though, is how it happened, and by reading Daniel's account we can see God's hand in these events. For those who are interested, I have written a blog post on what the world would have been like if the Greeks had lost at Marathon, and lost at Salamis.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dani Rose

    A wonderful start for someone looking to ease into classical primary sources. Not as dry or intimidating as Thucydides.

  22. 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."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alcyone

    I absolutely adore this book! It is among my top favorites. What I'm sure most people identify it with, if they can identify it at all, is the movie 300. Yes, this book does relate the first, true story of the 300 Spartans and not with comic pictures. It is one of my favorite stories in this book (there are many: suicidal cats, burning of Athens, Croesus and Solon, etc.), but it is far from the baseness of the horribly inaccurate movie.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    I had read this work three times before, always in George Rawlinson’s traditional translation. I wanted to read it at least once more as I listened to the lecture series on Herodotus by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver of Whitman College, a lecture series made available through the Teaching Company via their Great Courses. At Vandiver’s recommendation I used Robin Waterfield’s more recent translation and found it most satisfactory. This edition also contains adequate maps, an essential feature contr I had read this work three times before, always in George Rawlinson’s traditional translation. I wanted to read it at least once more as I listened to the lecture series on Herodotus by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver of Whitman College, a lecture series made available through the Teaching Company via their Great Courses. At Vandiver’s recommendation I used Robin Waterfield’s more recent translation and found it most satisfactory. This edition also contains adequate maps, an essential feature contributing to the reader’s understanding of Herodotus’ account which was written in the late 5th century BCE. Like many writers and artists from long ago, Herodotus’ reputation has waxed and waned over the centuries. One hundred years ago he was often the brunt of criticisms for his “outdated” approach to the writing of history. In recent decades, however, he has made somewhat of a comeback as his approach has been understood in the context of his times and the discipline of historiography generally. He has often been referred to as “The Father of History” (a title that some later scholars have felt should be more appropriately given to Herodotus’ successor Thucydides) in the sense that he was the first to write in a genre approximating modern historical writing. His work is an amalgam of history and literature influenced by his lack of written sources, his only sources having been oral tradition and the eye-witness accounts of the two to three previous generations regarding the Persian Wars. Herodotus attempted to evaluate and critique multiple stories and explanations even while including variations, however implausible. He also included set pieces, notably speeches by protagonists, that neither he nor his sources could have witnessed directly. This inclusiveness was the result not of credulity but of an attempt at thoroughness and a demonstration of his critical capacities. The study of history, like the study of any field of scholarship, requires the development of both a philosophy and an approach, a technique if you will, and the work of Herodotus shows us the first systemized efforts in this direction. He is interested in the “why” of what has happened in the past, and if his efforts seem different from our own, and especially from approaches that are not only currently fashionable but constantly changing, those efforts can interest and enlighten us. The first half of the work is essentially background material to the wars between the Persians and the Greeks in 490 BCE and again about a decade later, material often interesting, often admittedly (by Herodotus himself) unbelievable. The book’s second half focuses more clearly on the invasions of Greece by Darius and then Xerxes. These events were within the living memory of some of his audience, or at least his audience might have known ancestors who knew people who experienced these events. Herodotus knew his contemporary history in that he was aware of what came after the events he was narrating, and this knowledge influenced his purpose and emphasis. He began by examining and postulating the causes of antagonisms between Greeks and Persians, going back to legendary stories. He tried to give a logical background to more recent events, and attempted to provide reasons for why events occurred as they did. Some scholars believe that Herodotus wrote large chunks of the book earlier and independently and then inserted these sections into his final work. These include his detailed examination of Egyptian history, Persian history, Scythian history, and his contrasting these with each other and especially with Greek history and culture. There is apparently some reasonable evidence that these sections were written separately and then integrated into his larger work as Herodotus gradually grew in his understanding of what he was about. He was a proponent of the “Great Man” view of historical causality, this probably resulting from the nature of his sources, sources that traditionally had emphasized heroes and a heroic, often legendary, past. Although currently not in fashion, this perspective lasted for centuries, eg in the work of Thomas Carlyle in the 19th century. The book’s second half, describing the two wars themselves, more nearly approximates historical writing as we have come to know it, at least until the 20th century. There are two kinds of history, the first being actual historical happenings themselves, the second being the narrative or description of those events. Herodotus tried to make sense of events, critiquing his “data” in an effort to create a narrative that explained as well as described. He is an important figure in the evolution of historical writing as a genre. Each age interprets history through its own lenses, for its own purposes. None is strictly “objective” in that each relies on memory in some form, itself fraught with ambiguity, and each tries to explain events and trends, necessarily selecting, ignoring, organizing, and combining data to prove its point or illuminate its conclusions. I found the work to be important and fascinating, a lens through which to view history that occurred over two millennia ago and a view of historical writing in and of itself to be compared with the changes that have evolved in that discipline subsequently.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elie F

    Herodotus tried to sound objective, but he obviously incorporated a lot of his interpretations into the storytelling. What's refreshing is that his interpretations are based on the criteria of plausibility. He believed things as so because his reasoning concluded that it was the most plausible. Gods still play a part, but what determines the success is human. Some parts of The Histories read Machiavellian, with its political trickery, schemes, manipulations of public sentiments; but for Herodotu Herodotus tried to sound objective, but he obviously incorporated a lot of his interpretations into the storytelling. What's refreshing is that his interpretations are based on the criteria of plausibility. He believed things as so because his reasoning concluded that it was the most plausible. Gods still play a part, but what determines the success is human. Some parts of The Histories read Machiavellian, with its political trickery, schemes, manipulations of public sentiments; but for Herodotus the bottom line is democracy is better than dictatorship (as it is for Machiavelli). Many characters were portrayed as incredibly wise, among which Deioces and Croesus are the most unforgettable to me. The gist of the wisdom Herodotus intended to impart is moderation and balance. "It is always the largest building and the tallest trees on which Zeus hurls his thunderbolt. It is the god's way to curtail anything excessive." Great nations were almost always doomed by the rulers' excessive passion to expand territory and march forever onward. The greatest ruler, Herodotus believes, is the one who balances courage with fear, passion with modesty.

  26. 4 out of 5

    inkedblues

    Do you secretly enjoy reading about murder, betrayal, torture, infanticide, mass suicide, Patricide & Co. (to name a few!) and whimsical people making idiotic decisions that end up butchering entire nations? Oboy, do we have something for you! Have you heard of... Ancient Greece™? The cradle of high European culture my balls, but let the bestselling author Herodotus tell you about it! Reading about human sacrifice has never been so entertaining. Side effects may include: death out of boredom as the Do you secretly enjoy reading about murder, betrayal, torture, infanticide, mass suicide, Patricide & Co. (to name a few!) and whimsical people making idiotic decisions that end up butchering entire nations? Oboy, do we have something for you! Have you heard of... Ancient Greece™? The cradle of high European culture my balls, but let the bestselling author Herodotus tell you about it! Reading about human sacrifice has never been so entertaining. Side effects may include: death out of boredom as the author eagerly and endlessly describes manmade lakes and canals and the exact process of digging them (it is, after all, a historical account... sort of) or, at the very least, perpetual confusion as about every person that had ever lived prior to Herodotus time is mentioned in this sensational piece of work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Khashayar Mohammadi

    Monumental. Although sometimes Herodotus overdramatizes, its still a phenomenal source of ethnography and military history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ✺❂❤❣

    Loved this to no end.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nemo

    Herodotus was hailed as "The Father of History" by Cicero; To me, he might as well be the Father of Humanism. I've read a few war epics, Homer's Iliad, Hugo's Les Misérables and Tolstoy's War and Peace, The Histories excels them all in terms of scope, structure, richness of content, intricacy and theatrical grandeur. The main theme / storyline is the Persian Wars, i.e., the conflicts between the Persian Empire and Greek nations, culminating in the invasion of Greece by Xerces I; the underlying th Herodotus was hailed as "The Father of History" by Cicero; To me, he might as well be the Father of Humanism. I've read a few war epics, Homer's Iliad, Hugo's Les Misérables and Tolstoy's War and Peace, The Histories excels them all in terms of scope, structure, richness of content, intricacy and theatrical grandeur. The main theme / storyline is the Persian Wars, i.e., the conflicts between the Persian Empire and Greek nations, culminating in the invasion of Greece by Xerces I; the underlying theme is the struggle between tyranny and freedom, between the inexorability of fate and the triumph of the human spirit. Like threads in a beautiful Persian tapestry, Herodotus weaves together numerous elements in his narratives, the histories and geographies of the many nations in Asia and Europe, the customs, cultures and achievements of the peoples, the remarkable characters and lives of individuals, and the oracles foreshadowing their fates, from kings to slaves, heroes and thieves, men, women and children, their words and deeds all distinct and memorable. Some accused Herodotus of making up fanciful stories rather than recording the facts. I'm reminded of Thomas Mann's comment on War and Peace, "Seldom did art work so much like nature; its immediate, natural power is only another manifestation of nature itself; " If the best art is but a manifestation or imitation of nature, why make up stories when the facts themselves are much more wondrous and glorious? You live many lives when you read this book. A masterpiece.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    Ah, the sublime egoism of the internets, where a mere mortal like me writes a review of Herodotus. Obviously, as he is the first historian, you should read him. Even if he were boring and inaccurate, you should read him. But Herodotus is certainly not boring, and he's not as inaccurate as a lot of famous quotes from him would make you believe. It's sad, but Herodotus' reputation for inaccuracy, which he had even in the ancient world, comes largely from people stupidly misreading his greatest stre Ah, the sublime egoism of the internets, where a mere mortal like me writes a review of Herodotus. Obviously, as he is the first historian, you should read him. Even if he were boring and inaccurate, you should read him. But Herodotus is certainly not boring, and he's not as inaccurate as a lot of famous quotes from him would make you believe. It's sad, but Herodotus' reputation for inaccuracy, which he had even in the ancient world, comes largely from people stupidly misreading his greatest strength: whereas Thucydides and most later ancient historians would only give you the narrative they thought most plausible, Herodotus routinely gives several different versions of events as he heard them from different sources, and tells tales he heard but which he expressly doesn't personally believe. This is awesome because it allows us to double-check his work. For example, in 4.42 Herodotus describes the circumnavigation of Africa by the Egyptians ca. 600; and the detail he finds most unbelievable in the story--that the sailors had the sun to the northward of them as they sailed around the southern tip of Africa--is accurate and is now considered the best evidence that such a journey actually happened. Awesome book great job, H!

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