- Paperback: 771 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140449086
- ISBN-13: 978-0140449082
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 143 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Histories Reissue Edition
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“De Sélincourt’s pacy, natural-sounding, rendering, as superbly revised and annotated by John Marincola…was a game-changer…still reads freshly and is a bestseller six decades after its first publication.”
--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’.
John Marincola was born in Philadelphia in 1954, and was educated at Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University. He has taught at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and at Union College in New York, and is currently an Associate Professor of Classics at New York University. From 1997 to 1999 he was Executive Director of the American Philological Association, and in 1999-2000 he was a Junior Fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (Cambridge, 1997), Greek Historians (Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics 31, Oxford 2001), and of several articles on the Greek and Roman historians. He is currently at work on a book on Hellenistic historiography.
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This book is easy enough to follow, but at times drags on. If you don't mind having a larger book in front of you, I recommend the Strassler edition, which features extensive maps and footnotes (this work only had endnotes).
But Herodotus's book and our translations of it are two different things, since a translation, depending on its mix of virtues and vices, can either obscure the original or present it almost transparently, as through a window. Fortunately, this translation by Aubrey de Selincourt is outstanding in every respect. A work of art in its own right, it is accurate, complete, succinct and clear. It was a great pleasure to read, and I am unaware of any better translation for modern readers.
Sadly, this superb combination of ancient book and modern translation is spoiled by John Marincola's Introduction and Notes. Their many defects rise almost to the level of a literary crime, since they exemplify almost every vice that a good annotator would avoid. They are superficial, narrowly conceived, gratuitously speculative, offensively arrogant, and unbearably intrusive. Again and again, they illustrate poor judgment and a breathtaking lack of scholarly temperament. Worse, they betray a deep failure to understand Herodotus, the world he lived in, and the importance of this book, a priceless treasure he left behind him.
In the final analysis, prospective readers face a difficult choice. Should they purchase this superb translation and endure the distracting and often annoying nonsense that Marincola will hurl at them from every page? Or should they settle for another, less enjoyable translation that is better annotated? If I had it to do over again, I would avoid Marincola at all costs. Fortunately, Oxford World Classics, Loeb Classics (Harvard University Press), and many other publishers provide good alternatives.