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The Histories (Norton Critical Editions) 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393959468
ISBN-10: 0393959465
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

Walter Blanco is Professor of English at the City University of New York
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (December 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393959465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393959468
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Herodotus was the first historian as we now understand the term. That is, he was the first to examine and compare sources of information about past events and to write them down. His reputation has waxed and waned over the centuries, and at the present time he is less well thought of than Thucydides. Yet CollingwoodThe Idea of History: With Lectures 1926-1928 favors Herodotus over Thucydides because Herodotus simply tries to tell us as best he can what actually happened, while Thucydides has a moral tale to tell, and may have (we can't be sure) tailored his narrative to fit his moral.

Be that as it may, Herodotus should be read by every educated person, since Western culture and civilization began in his time, and the events he describes affect us to this day.

Since most of us do not read ancient Greek, the question then arises as to which translation to read. Walter Blanco's translation in this Norton Critical Edition is quite good, but is by no means perfect. He tends to use casual language modern Americans are comfortable with, but this probably isn't the tone in which Herodotus wrote his books. There is evidence that he declaimed them orally to audiences in rather formal performances, more like modern dramatic readings than reading silently to oneself.

Blanco's version is definitely an improvement over the 19th century standard by RawlinsonThe Persian Wars (Modern Library College Editions), but David Grene's more formal language in
...Read more ›
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First of all, if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any of the Norton Critical Editions of any famous works, always opt for them. As usual, this is a superb edition with tons of scholarly material and background information. If you like Greek history, it's hard to find anything that you would not like about Herodotus's histories. Many consider him the father of all history, and after you read him, you'll see why. On top of being a great historian, you'll find plenty of personal anecdotes about the Romans' escapes in Egypt, Cyrus's mistakes and achievments, and Xerxes' victories. This will make you a quick expert in Greek history and will entertain you with anecdotes from the Greek forays into Africa and the Mediterrean. You'll never think of any of the Greek leaders the same way again after you read Herodotus' gossip column account. You can't always trust him, but it's much more entertaining than Thucydides's histories.
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Often called "the father of history" Herodotus wrote the history of the Persian Wars more than one thousand years ago. The Persian Wars were a series of wars between the Powerful Persian empires of Xerxes and Darius and a handful of Greek cities, most notably Athens and Sparta. The Persian Wars set the tone for many subsequent themes in Western History including:
1. The concept of preserving Western culture from Eastern invaders. This theme occurs again and again in the conflicts between Rome and Parthia, the latter Roman Empire and the Huns, Charlamagne and the Saracens, late Medieval Europe and the Mongols, and contemporary Hollywood propaganda films about Arab terrorists. 2. The idea of a highly motivated and cunning underdog defeating a powerful but sloppy enemy. 3. The need for alliances and team work.
The most interesting part of The Histories, however is not the politics or the battles but the moral lessons that Herodotus tried to impart. A recurring theme in The Histories is the idea that the Greeks defeated the Persians because the Greeks acted in Harmony with nature while the Persians defied nature. Herodotus provides countless anecdotes of the hubris of Persian emperors who attempted to dominate nature by bridging the Hellespont , draining an offending river by digging thousands of diverting canals, or throwing shackles into the ocean to symbolize its submission to the Emperor. Herodotus viewed these actions as Hubris because they contained a false assumption of man's superiority over nature.
It is interesting that the father of Western History derived his culture's legitimacy from its respectful interaction with nature. What on Earth would he make of us now?
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I always thought delving into Herodotus would be like pulling teeth. But after reading other reviews of the Norton Edition, I opted to purchase a copy. What a rich source of information! From the origin of the term "sissies," to triremes, to Xerxes ordering the flogging, fettering, branding and cursing of the Hellespont, this has been a most enjoyable reading adventure. I plan to re-read it many times. Kudos to translators Walter Blanco and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts.
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