- Paperback: 784 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; 1 edition (6 March 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780140449082
- ISBN-13: 978-0140449082
- ASIN: 0140449086
- Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 3.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Histories Paperback – 6 Mar 2003
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--Edith Hall, Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Few facts are known about the life of Herodotus. He was born around 490 BC in Halicarnassus, on the south-west coast of Asia Minor. He seems to have travelled widely throughout the Mediterranean world, including Egypt, Africa, the area around the Black Sea and throughout many Greek city-states, of both the mainland and the islands. A sojourn in Athens is part of the traditional biography, and there he is said to have given public readings of his work and been friends with the playwright Sophocles. He is said also to have taken part in the founding of the colony of Thurii in Italy in 443 BC. He probably died at some time between 415 and 410 BC. His reputation has varied greatly, but for the ancients and many moderns he well deserves the title (first given to him by Cicero) of 'the Father of History'.
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The History of Herodotus is divided into nine 'books' (we would call it chapters) each with a name of one of the nine Muzes: book 1 is Cleio, book 2 is Euterpe, book 3 is Thaleia, book 4 is Melpomene, book 5 is Terpsichore, book 6 is Erato, book 7 is Polymnia, book 8 Ourania and book 9 Calliope. Their names were given at random without a link to the content of each book.
Scholars believe that it wasn't Herodotus who used these names but that it was done probably by
an unknown copyist from the Hellenistic period (+- 300-200 B.C.).
Many critics say that there is no leading thread running through the nine books and that their digressions are used haphazardly with little explanation of historical events.
Those critics are not entirely wrong. Herodotus is fond of legends, myths and anecdotes ( in book 2
for instance we read an Egyptian horror story ) and let's face it; the Greeks themselves were fond of these things. Herodotus must have been a very popular writer in his time.
Modern historians though are not likely to use such things with minor importance in their scientific works.
There is a leading thread however but you have to simplify things a little. You could summarize Herodotus' work in three steps. 1. How Persia becomes a military power. 2. The conquest of Egypt by Persia. 3. Two attempts to conquer Greece and why they failed.
The first attempt fails in the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). The second attempt is more complex but takes a turn in favor of the Greeks during the sea-battle of Salamis where the Persian fleet is almost destroyed. Legend ( or historical fact ? ) has it that Aeschylus - one of the three Tragedy Poets - participated in that battle. ( 480 B.C. ).
Herodotus proofs that literature from Antiquity can be entertaining.