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The Histories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Histories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The Histories, by Herodotus, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

The world's first great narrative history, Herodotus's The Histories vividly describes how the Greeks—few in number, poor, and disunited—managed to repulse a massive invasion by the powerful Persian army in the 5th century b.c. This amazing upset victory changed the course of western civilization, as the cities that led the resistance—Athens and Sparta—became the two major powers on the Greek mainland. The remarkable period that followed introduced revolutionary ideas about democracy, education, philosophy, drama, and—thanks to Herodotus—the writing of history.

A wonderful storyteller, Herodotus filled the Histories with amusing anecdotes and dialogue, human details about the lives of important political figures, and a kaleidoscope of viewpoints from people of many lands. Magnificent in compass and enormously entertaining, the Histories is not only the leading source of original information for Greek history during the all-important period between 550 and 479 b.c., but also an artistic masterpiece that created a new genre of literature.

Features maps of several noted battles, index of proper names, and a general index.

Donald Lateiner teaches Greek, Latin, Ancient History and Comparative Folklore in the Humanities-Classics department at Ohio Wesleyan University. His scholarship focuses on Homer and Herodotus. He has published a book on each. He also researches nonverbal behaviors in ancient literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593081027
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 510
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.56(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Donald Lateiner's Introduction to The Histories

"Herodotus sometimes writes for children and sometimes for philosophers," said the greatest of modern historians, Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788, chapter 24, note 54). Casual and serious readers alike have loved the first historian, the inventor of history, for his narrative genius and tragi-comic view of human events, great and small. He has been equally criticized and damned by professional historians, ethnographers, and geographers for errors of fact and method, and even for his Greek. Cicero was not the first to call him "the father of lies." The German scholar Detlev Fehling (see "For Further Reading") actually avers that he never left Greece or perhaps even his Anatolian study, copying others' lies and travelers' tales, inventing claims of visits to exotic places and familiar monuments, and fabricating hundreds of alleged sources.

Whereas other ancient historians who followed his large footsteps narrowed their scope in terms of topic (Thucydides, Polybius, Sallust), time (Theopompus, Livy, Tacitus), or territory (the local historians, such as those of Athens, the Atthidographers, or the chroniclers of other poleis), Herodotus Homerically encompasses vast realms in topic, time, and territory. After leaving his birthplace, Halicarnassos on the western edge of Asia Minor (Anatolia, now roughly Turkey), he sailed on various voyages, perhaps as a merchant, south to Egypt, east to Sidon, north to the Hellespont and Black Sea, and west to Italy and Sicily. He then traveled inland in all these directions, although one cannot always separate his reports based on personal visits from what he heard or thought he heard, through interpreters who were sometimes comparatively informed and sometimes no better than local loungers eager to help a tourist. He saw the earth beneath his feet and existing structures at Delphi, Marathon, and Delos. He traveled to the edges of the known and unknown inhabited world in Egypt and Italy, and around the Black Sea. He heard about Spain, Babylon (in modern Iraq), Afghanistan, cold Britain, and the hot Sahara. This last region, described with wonder and some disparagement in the latter half of book IV, is crucial to the story of Ondaatje's protagonist in The English Patient, a Central European explorer of North Africa. Herodotus was his guide in those vast spaces, and he was never separated from this talisman, a kind of Bible for his restless search in life.

Herodotus—the inquirer, evaluator, and judge (a combination of the three is what "historian" means in Greek)tells us what he observed. He saw pyramids, inscriptions, and other natural and artificial alterations of the environment. He heard facts and fictions from combatants, travelers, and survivors. He gathered legends and anecdotes from oral traditional tales. And he surmised certain things to be possible or probable from his own penetrating critiques of humans, their normal and odd behaviors, and their environment. Some of his alleged errors turn out to be misunderstandings of what he wrote. Some real errors (such as his disbelief [4.42] in the possibility of Phoenician circumnavigation of Africa) derive from his honest mistakes in a young and illiterate world without prose books—his was one of the first and certainly the most ambitious work of research to his day.

Notwithstanding the somewhat exceptional case of the Athenians and the unavailability of scribal records of the Eastern autocracies, his world possessed few public records, no libraries or databases, only many personal and parochial biases and foreign tongues. His sources and source materials include Egyptian, African, Persian, Phoenician, Scythian, Celtic, and Ethiopian as well as Greek information. For one exotic example, his account of gold-digging, furry giant ants in the northeastern corner of the Persian Empire (Pactyike; 3.102-105) may have misreported, through many intermediary sources, the habits of a larger animal. The large burrowing marmots of the Dansar plateau, which overlooks the Indus in Kashmir, may have given rise to Herodotus' bizarre account of mining insects; see Michel Peissel's The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas (1984) and an article by Marlise Simons ("Gold-Digging Ants' Mystery Seems Solved, After Bugging Scholars for Centuries"; New York Times, November 25, 1996). In "The Place of Herodotus in the History of Historiography," the eminent student of ancient historiography Arnaldo Momigliano wrote: "If we had to give an a priori estimate of . . . success in writing history by Herodotus' method, we should probably shake our heads in sheer despondency."

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Histories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Dierckx More than 1 year ago
( This is what we are used to call him. Of course Herodotus is not the Father because History existed already long before he was born. The Father of Written History would be more accurate). Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus and lived from 484 until 429 B.C. These dates are approximate. The History of Herodotus is divided into nine 'books' (we would call it chapters) each with a name of one of the nine Muzes: book 1 is Cleio, book 2 is Euterpe, book 3 is Thaleia, book 4 is Melpomene, book 5 is Terpsichore, book 6 is Erato, book 7 is Polymnia, book 8 Ourania and book 9 Calliope. Their names were given at random without a link to the content of each book. Scholars believe that it wasn't Herodotus who used these names but that it was done probably by an unknown copyist from the Hellenistic period (+- 300-200 B.C.). Many critics say that there is no leading thread running through the nine books and that their digressions are used haphazardly with little explanation of historical events. Those critics are not entirely wrong. Herodotus is fond of legends, myths and anecdotes ( in book 2 for instance we read an Egyptian horror story ) and let's face it; the Greeks themselves were fond of these things. Herodotus must have been a very popular writer in his time. Modern historians though are not likely to use such things with minor importance in their scientific works. There is a leading thread however but you have to simplify things a little. You could summarize Herodotus' work in three steps. 1. How Persia becomes a military power. 2. The conquest of Egypt by Persia. 3. Two attempts to conquer Greece and why they failed. The first attempt fails in the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). The second attempt is more complex but takes a turn in favor of the Greeks during the sea-battle of Salamis where the Persian fleet is almost destroyed. Legend ( or historical fact ? ) has it that Aeschylus - one of the three Tragedy Poets - participated in that battle. ( 480 B.C. ). I give Herodotus 4 stars because - though he's an interesting read - Thycidides uses a more scientific and 'modern' approach in his description of the Peloponnesian War.
Time_Traveller More than 1 year ago
Herodotus provides insights to man's way of thinking almost two and a half millenia ago. Surprisingly, aside from the knowledge that we have progressively acquired through the ages, you will find that we have generally remained the same as to our needs and desires. There are thorough descriptions of several ancient cultures, including an in depth discussion of Egyptian history and current (at the time) culture. There are also insights into Greek, Persian and Scythian peoples of that time. Although it becomes clear that Herodotus gets a bit sensational and fantastic and that the details of this history are not to be trusted on their own merits, the book on a whole seems to give a good picture of what went on back then.

Herodotus is an excellent story teller. At times the book reads as a gripping adventure, especially when he gets to describing the rise of Cyrus the Great, the Greco-Persian War in general and the Battle of Thermopylae in particular.

I thoroughly recommend this book to history lovers. Even those who usually don't read histories may find their interest piqued by Herodotus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first time that I ever studied Herodotus. Nevertheless, Donald Lateiner's excellent introduction allowed even a novice like me to gain an understanding of the marvelous world which Herodotus describes, of the historian himself and of his methods, and of the lasting influence of 'The Histories.' The translation by G.C. Macauly is very lyrical and a true joy to read (I cannot, unfortunately, compare it to other translations). Donald Lateiner provides a list of the other major translations of 'The Histories' for those who are interested. As for 'The Histories' themselves, what can I possibly say: they are the most comprehensive view of ancient Europe and the Middle East ever penned. Here are wonders to amaze the soul, forgotten realms and far away lands, tales of the common people as well as the greatest kings, and philosophies to enlighten and transcend the mind. History at its finest. Herodotus not only wrote the first prose narrative, but also one of the best!!! I wish I could give it an infinite number of stars- a mere five is simply not enough!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The value of this inexpensive volume lies in the sheer pleasure of reading Herodotus, the Greek writer who ¿invented¿ history as it should be written. Every page testifies to a mind at work on facts (or myths or legends) that are shaped into a narrative to be valued as a whole as well for its parts. For the non-specialist, especially one on a budget, this volume offers a readable translation (which the editor revamped from G.C. Macaulay¿s late 19th century translation) plus Lateiner¿s succinct but informative 17-page introduction. A bibliography directs the curious to additional resources. And a 60-page index provides entry to readers seeking specific information. This is not the Herodotus a specialist would seek. But it is as good a Herodotus as the general reader or college student could want, and at a decent price.
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My Barnes & Noble edition read well and I soon sunk into the magic of Herodotus's history of the Persian Wars (and whatever else was on his mind!) A better read than Thucydides.
mikebridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very clear and readable modern English translation of Herodotus. The notes at the end are more complete than anything I've ever seen before, and the introduction is a good guide for someone like me who has very little background in ancient Greek history.
whjensen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really 2 books in 1, Histories gives an overview of both the Persian/Greek conflict and the cultures surrounding it. To fully appreciate this book, it is important to be able to divide it in your mind - a Fodors Guide for the Ancient Mediterranean and a History 101.Although most would agree that Herodotus had a problem with facts, it is important to look at it contextually. Herodotus was one of the revolutionaries in history - he set out to make an honest book, comparing different versions of history and ethnography and explaining why he believed a version was true.Worth reading but remember - categorize it in your mind as you read!
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
During the fifth century B.C. Herodotus of Halicarnassus traveled the known world making inquiries and doing research on the origins and events of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks. This sizable text was the result and it includes what he referred to as enquiries but what encompasses much of what we would call history, sociology, anthropology, mythology and more. It is a wonderful narrative providing the essential background and events, including famous battles like Thermopylae and profiles of great leaders on both sides including Themistocles, Darius and Xerxes. Perhaps the best way to convey the import of this book is to let Herodotus speak for himself. He opens the book thus:"Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks."Herodotus does not shy away from opinions about the events that he narrates; one of these opinions is related early in Book One:"I know that human happiness never remains long in the same place."This becomes more and more evident as one reads on through this excellent work. Reading it was an adventure into the history of the known world in that time.
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