Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Histories summary

I may be obliged to tell what is said, but I am not at all obliged to believe it. And you may consider this statement to be valid for my entire work.
- from Book Seven, Paragraph 152

Wow. That’s about all I can manage at this point. What a long strange trip this has been. I didn’t intend to spend so much time on The Histories but I am glad I did. I hope I haven’t scared away anyone that is thinking about reading the book because of the length of time I took—it really doesn't take an entire season (and then some) to read it.

I wanted to spend a minute on the different editions I have read. My first exposure was with Penguin Classics, translation by Aubery de Selincourt. The only substantive complaint I had about that version was the maps. Whenever I come across a location in a text that I don’t know my first impulse is to look it up on a map. For the Penguin edition this meant flipping back to the front of the book and searching on the small maps provided. Even though the maps were adequate most of the time, finding a location was hit or miss. The Landmark Herodotus solves this by placing maps specific to the surrounding text throughout the book so I am rarely more than a page or two away from the appropriate map. But there is so much more to this version that I enjoyed. I’ll link Paul Rahe’s review again from the resources page which takes a critical look at this version, especially the defects he sees in the translation by Andrea L. Purvis. Even with the reservations he lists, I *love* this version for its layout and the additional information it provides. And something else that may seem minor but I think is important—I’ve been lugging this book around for about four months—throwing it in the backseat or trunk of my car, under my desk at work, and on various tables at home. Even with all the wear and tear it is still in great shape (note: this was the hardcover version). Very highly recommended. I’m looking forward to exploring the Landmark versions of Thucydides and Xenophon as well as picking up the volume of Arrian available later this year.

I thought about doing a post with final thoughts about The Histories but I don’t know how I could keep it to a single post. There are many areas I barely touched on or didn't mention that I'd like to include but I’m afraid I could make this a full year project. I’ll end with mentioning the complexity of Herodotus and his views, plus how much he disappears into his work while at the same time remaining front and center throughout. Many times when someone tries to pigeonhole Herodotus’ thoughts as pro-this or anti-that they usually demonstrate they don’t understand the work at all.

I don't intend the listed posts below to be all-inclusive on Herodotus but I hope they will encourage readers to explore some or all of his work.

The Histories

Online resources

Book One

Book Two

Book Three

Book Four

Book Five

Book Six

Book Seven
Athens and Sparta
Oracles for the Athenians
Thermopylae as Homeric epic
Miscellaneous points

Book Eight
Who leads the fleet?
The Troizen decree
The last chapters

Book Nine
The Battle of Plataea begins
Mycale and the ending

A few of the characters and wonders in The Histories

The tunnel of Samos

The Behistun inscription

Two presentations on the story of Gyges

Aristeas of Proconnesus

Periandros (Periander)


Of Arms and the Man

About The Histories

The opening of “Herodotus” by Lucian of Samosata

Ryszard Kapuściński's Travels with Herodotus

Kate Beaton’s lighthearted look at who is the father of history?

A quote from an Amazon review—Athenians, Albanians, what’s the difference?

E. Housman’s poem “The Oracles”


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Congratulations - what an archive!

Dwight said...

Thanks. Not what I intended when started but it took on a life of its own. Much appreciated.