Since no one with a life will read Dwight's encyclopaedic comment, I would just like to say that Herodotus was a terrific chronicler of the world in his day, and the Landmark edition is wonderfully helpful to understanding all that the admiral describes.
Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time. May the great and wonderful deeds—some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians—not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.
Thus begins Herodotus inquiries or research into “great and wonderful deeds” by the Greeks and others, leading to the wars between Persia and the Greek city-states. There is a dual nature to "The Histories" in which Herodotus shows he has benefited from the Ionian enlightenment, yet continues to be shaped by Homeric epic and Greek tragedy. His reliance on what he has seen and heard, while seeming credulous at times, emphasizes wanting to use his senses and his reason to piece together what has happened. At the same time, some debts to the epic form are straightforward. In addition, some of the stories he presents as the most likely option he has heard will sound like something straight out of one of Sophocles' plays.
The first half of The Histories lays the groundwork for the wars between Persia and Greece (490 and 480/79 B.C.), with seemingly endless digressions on his way to culminate in his point that “prosperity never remains constant". The stories are memorable and the digressions equally wonderful. The second half gets to the actual conflict between the Greek city-states and Persia, and this is where Herodotus shines.
It is easy to read The Histories cynically and laugh at the impossibilities or exaggerations Herodotus describes. To do so misses out on his allure and charm as well as minimizing the task he sets for himself. Beyond the fictional accounts and folk tales lies a struggle and search for explanations on what has happened in the past and to take lessons from those experiences. Herodotus looks to assign reasons for events tied to personal decisions and actions while not completely ruling out actions from the gods or fate. Herodotus also tries to fit natural events into a methodology which, for the most part, lies outside of Greek mythology.
The Landmark series of ancient history is recommended for anyone really wanting to absorb these ancient writers. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I think a first-time reader will benefit from using the Landmark edition.
Cicero called Herodotus the father of history. Compelled by his desire to 'prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time,' Herotodus recounts the incidents preceding and following the Persian Wars. He gives us much more than military history, though, providing the fullest portrait of the classical world of the 5th and 6th centuries. We recommend particularly The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories for its maps, photographs of sites, annotations and index.
Fantastic text. Scholarly, well organized, translation is very readable, good use of maps. Landark indeed
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