Sunday, March 11, 2012

Herodotus' Histories: Book I


I finished Book I of the Histories the other day--and then I went out of town and couldn't post right away. This is all about Persia: its history, peoples, and customs, and how the war between the Greeks and the Persians got started. There are some great stories! Herodotus starts off with the story of Croesus and his great wealth, and how he lost it all to Cyrus. Cyrus dominates the book, conquering all over the place, but there are lots of digressions into the histories and rulers of the places he conquers. If you're not paying attention, it can look like he is meandering all over the place, but he always comes back to where he left off--eventually. Sometimes there are digressions within digressions inside other digressions!

There are so many familiar stories in this book--I know them from other sources, but here is the original. There are even more stories that are new to me. As I'm also reading the Book of the City of Ladies, I'm meeting the same valiant queens in each book, which is fun.

I have to say that I think Herodotus is pretty fair to the Persians. I recently saw a little video for kids about historical bias that claimed that our idea that Greeks = good guys and Persians = baddies comes from Herodotus, but I'm not sure that was fair. (I'm also not sure the video-makers read the Histories.) I think Herodotus was trying to be pretty objective and accurate, but of course research wasn't easy back then! And after all he was about the first one to even try out such an idea.

I love my Landmark edition of this book. For one thing it's printed on nice paper, and pleasurable to hold, but there are lots of helpful maps (I finally found out where Colchis was) and notes and things, which really help a novice like me to understand what's going on. I've also read 3 of the appendices and they are helpful too. The only problem is that it's a huge, heavy book that is not easy to read in bed.

Now I'm reading about the geography of Egypt. So far so good.

3 comments:

Amy said...

I can never quite decide to read Herodotus. It's one of those I feel I *should* read, but somehow never have. I must say you make it sound appealing!

Adriana @ Classical Quest said...

Herodotus' Histories is on my long term list. Interesting post. Thank you.

Jean said...

Well, I'd encourage you to read it--but get a well-annotated edition, it helps a lot. I had to read it in college and of course had a used Penguin, and this time it's much easier.