Friday, November 05, 2010


By Herodotus of Miletus

Herodotus of Miletus was known to the Ancient Greeks as the Father of History, he was also known as the Father of Lies. Either way, he was Big Daddy.

Prior to Herodotus, writing was a practical affair. A few pioneers had transcribed old poems by Homer or the stories of the gods or had composed original works on science. Herodotus took it to a new level with a sustained narrative that begins with the known world as its scope and drives to the remarkable Greek defeat of the Persian Invasion in 480 BC.

Herodotus gives the background of the rise of Persia along with ethnographical accounts (some of the world’s earliest) of the tribes the Persians and Greeks came in contact with in their rise to power. A seemingly minor revolt by the Ionian Greeks drew the mainland Greeks into conflict with Persia. The result was the invasion repelled at Marathon. This defeat of Persian arms could not go unavenged and in 481 BC King Xerxes set out in personal command of a massive invasion force.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a lot of dull homework. Herodotus was all about a good story. He has tall tales of gold-guarding griffins in Asia (and giant gold-digging ants). He brings the wild Skythians to life in a vivid portrait of these proud and warlike barbarians. The battles of Thermopyle, Salamis, and Plataea are related, often with first-hand information, in scenes that make Ancient warfare come to life. Above all this is the tale of the Greeks’ seemingly suicidal defiance of the world’s mightiest empire, in the name of liberty. If you like tales with larger-than-life heroes, battles for the ultimate stakes, and a gripping narrative, this is a book for you.
-Dave Hardy

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