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Herodotus: The Histories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English
Original Language: Greek

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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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 622 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (December 31, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446388
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the first great prose work in European literature and the first history text. Herodotus is a volume that should be required reading for all educated men and women. The edition I read, and recommend, is the translation by Aubrey de Selincourt of Penguin Books. "The Histories" is an account, which I found very entertaining, of what led up to the war between the Greek city-states and the Persians under Darius and Xerxes resulting in the battles of Marathon (490 B.C.), Salamis (480 B.C.), and Plataea (479 B.C.). Scholars often seem to keep forgetting that Herodotus was also a great storyteller, even if he gets his dates wrong, has little military experience (hence, his descriptions of the battles leaves much to be desired), and often relies on untrustworthy sources. However, he never intentionally misleads the reader. He usually informs the reader if some information is hearsay or untrustworthy. The text is divided into nine books. Book I deals primarily with the conflicts the Greeks had with their neighbors, leading to the Trojan War. It also contains an account of the conquest of Lydia by Croesus (and Solon's famous visit) and the establishment of the Persian Empire. Book II is mainly concerned with Egypt and Book III deals with the reign of Cambyses over Egypt and the rise of Darius. Book IV is concerned with the beginning of Darius' campaign against Scythia and his conquest of Lybia. Book V discusses the reduction of the Scythians in Thrace and the beginning of the Ionian revolt against Persia. Book VI reports on the progress of the war down to the victory of the Greeks at Marathon. Books VII to IX cover the death of Darius, the preparation of the army of Xerxes, the march across the Hellespont, the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, and the final defeat of the Persians at Plataea and at Mycale.
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Format: Paperback
If you think history is a dry, dull, boring subject, reading Herodotus's History of the Persian Wars just might change your mind. Herodotus clearly enjoys his subject and enjoys writing about it; he has been accused of fabricating facts but he states several times in the book that although he feels obligated to report everything he has heard, he does not have to believe it all alike, and where he doesn't believe what he has heard or read, he says so. In contrast to Thucydides, whose style is didactic, analytic and dry as dust, Herodotus write with a lot of verve and humor, and makes us live in his time by bringing the time vividly to life. The translation by Aubrey Selincourt is a good one, but if you can, get the edition translated by George Rawlinson ("The Persian Wars"), which is more interesting and more fun to read. This is a wonderful volume for history buffs or anyone who simply enjoys a well-written, fascinating book.
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Format: Paperback
The Penguin Classics series is full of treasures, but this is one of the best of them. Like other reviewers I approached this with a little trepidation, thinking that it would be a dry study of ancient history. I was surprised and delighted to find that Herodotus, at least in this translation (by Aubrey de Selincourt), is lively, witty and frankly more readable than many modern history writers.
There are copious footnotes, provided by John Marincola, and I found them very valuable in providing context. For example, Herodotus gives, in book seven, an incredible account of how Xerxes had a channel cut through the Athos peninsula a mile and a half long and a hundred feet wide, just to pass through on his invasion of Greece, and not for permanent use. Marincola points out in the footnotes that later writers of antiquity ridiculed this account, but that in fact archaeological evidence has been found to support it.
Marincola also provides a structural outline of the histories, several maps (which are absolutely invaluable), and a chronology, plus lists of the most important kingships. The histories cover quite a bit of territory and time, but the focus is on the war between Persia and Greece, waged first by Darius and then by Xerxes. The timeline, in modern terms, is about 560 B.C. to 480 B.C.; however, particularly when talking about Egypt, Herodotus goes back much further.
Herodotus' general style, in fact, is to use the political events of the history as springboards for relating the information he has about the customs of the various Mediterranean societies. There are many digressions on the customs of the Babylonians, the Thracians, the Libyans, the Indians, and so on; these are placed whereever they seem most relevant in the story.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up a copy of this book over ten years ago and it had been collecting dust ever since. The size alone kept me at bay plus my other experiences with ancient authors had led me to assume reading it would be a dull, tedious chore. BOY WAS I WRONG! I had SO much fun reading this book it was hard to believe. I finished it in less than a week (no mean task!). Anyone interested in early Greek culture or the wars with Persia might find a modern work to be more accurate but you'd be hard pressed to find a more ENJOYABLE piece than this one!
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Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful book to read, not just for historians and people interested in ancient Greece cultures, but for all people who appreciate lively story telling.
It's true that Herotodous was not the most disciplined of historians (many things he had to say should be taken with a pillar of salt), but he always manages to be entertaining. It's interesting just to read all the misconceptions the Greeks had about other people.
And then there are the inspiring stories of the Persian War. Learn about the first ever marathon. Read about Artemesia, the Persian naval commander, a feminist centuries before her time. I can't recommend this book enough!
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