Title: The Landmark Herodotus:
Author: Herodotus of Halicarnassus
Translator: Andrea L. Purvis
Rating: 4 out of 5
Herodotus charts the course of the conflict between the “civilized” Hellenes (Greeks) and the “barbarian” Persians with many rabbit trails into geography, ethnography, biology, and any other “marvels” or entertaining stories that happen to capture his interest. While some of his information is so outlandish as to be unbelievable, he does frequently reference sources in a general sort of way and gives alternate versions of events when he is aware of them. The climax of the book is Xerxes’ invasion of Hellas which features the battles of Thermopylae (Leonidas and the 300 Spartans), Salamis, and Plataea.
If you are the kind of person who likes to sit down and read history, it is well worth the effort. Just don’t expect vivid descriptions and edge-of-your-seat suspense; the “father of history” didn’t write that way (and some of his ethnography can be tedious). Additionally, if you are into biblical studies it gives good background on a number of Persian kings who make an appearance in Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (no wonder she was worried about how her husband might react to an uninvited appearance in his presence – the man was spectacularly unstable/unpredictable in how he treated people).
This is the second time I have read Herodotus (Yes, I’m a history nerd.), and this edition of The Histories made for a much richer experience than the bare bones, public domain, Barnes & Noble edition that I read the first time. Each paragraph has a proposed date and location next to it (which is very helpful given how much Herodotus jumps around); every few pages are maps of varying scales that help you understand where the action is taking place and how it fits into the ancient world as a whole; additional pictures of archaeological sites, artifacts, etc. help flesh out the picture; and footnotes help you locate things on the map, explain certain customs, comment on how accurate modern historians regard an assertion to be, or direct you to one of the twenty-two informative appendices. The work that went into this edition is impressive and certainly enhances the content. This is a must-have for ancient history geeks!
Oh, and I’m using this as my “Classic in Translation” over at the Back to the Classics Challenge.