Monday, March 20, 2017

The Histories by Herodotus

The Histories
Herodotus (translator: David Grene)
Written 440 BC
The Well-Educated Mind (Histories); 
Back to the Classics Challenge (Published before 1800)
The Classics Club II
The Manly Reading List

I have no interest in writing this post.  I did not chew on The Histories, nor did I digest it; rather I deficiently tasted it, I admit.  It was a long, laborious read, with occasional moments of fascination about ancient culture, which I preferred.  The bulk of it was about the Greco-Persian conflicts.

I am more anxious to get this over with; therefore, here are some of the questions provided by Susan Wise Bauer from TWEM that I attempted very poorly to consider.

Level I:

* Who is the author, and does he/she state the purpose for writing?  

Herodotus is a writer of Greek history who lived during the 5th century BC, and his given purpose for writing The Histories was to preserve the history of the Greeks and non-Greek populations, including the discoveries, achievements, and accomplishments of man, as well as the causes of the Greek and Persian conflicts.

* Who is the story about, and what are the major events?

The Histories covers Ancient and Greek history through the Greco-Persian Wars, using a mode of investigation, subjective oral histories and folk tales, and other hearsay.  Herodotus incorporates the cultural ways of the people and nations in and around the Mediterranean and Asia Minor and the numerous ongoing conflicts and wars between the Persians and the Greeks. 

Skipping Level II questions because I just want to get this over with.

Level III:

* What does it mean to be human?

This question focuses on what the author considers is a specific characteristic of human beings.  In this case it is having success, control, and power over others.  The most powerful conquer, and those who conquer are the most important.  In addition, to be a warrior and to die in battle is honorable.

* Why do things go wrong?

Things go wrong when man becomes arrogant and greedy for power; power is fleeting.

* What place does free will have?

What free will?  As is all too common in history - and no different for the civilizations featured in The Histories - people were dominated by a government (or kingdom) that controlled them.  People did not have a say in what their kings or leaders did.  Human sacrifice was also part of ancient cultural traditions. (Some traditions are really ignorant.)   

* What is the end of history?

Is there any hope for humanity after reading The Histories?  Yes and no.  All of these civilizations are gone.  Like power, governments and civilizations do not last long.  Most change hands and morph into something else, either equally bad or little better.  In this case, Herodotus ends off with this:
"From soft countries come soft men.  It is not possible that from the same land stems a growth of wondrous fruit and men who are good soldiers."  So the Persians took this to heart and went away; their judgement had been overcome by that of Cyrus, and they chose to rule, living in a wretched land, rather than to sow the level plains and be slaves to others.  
So, in other words - I think - the Persian leader(s) did not learn their lesson, nor did they care about anything but power.  And man still has not learned.  

2 comments:

  1. Your review made me laugh. I too have this book and have not read it yet. It's one of those books that I think I should read but do not naturally gravitate to. Although, in a weird way, your review kind of makes me want to read it now.

    As for your last paragraph I think Jeremiah 17:9 addresses it.

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    Replies
    1. The heart definitely is wicked. Thanks for sharing that.

      When you said this is one of those books that you think you should read, but do not naturally gravitate to . . . it reminded me that I bought this book a looooooong time ago b/c I probably saw it on a classical book list, in addition to other ancient Greek texts, which I also bought -- and they sit on my shelves waiting for me to read them. I only read this b/c it was on my WEM list.

      It did have fascinating and interesting parts, but the war was really, really long and not fascinating or interesting to me. Nonetheless, some of the others in the group who read it at the same time really loved it.

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