Have you ever read Herodotus? Let me guess: the answer is no. Are you ever going to read Herodotus? You bet.
Well, bits of it, at any rate. 🙂 If I have anything to do with it.
Perhaps you think you have better things to do with your time and The Histories are too long and too boring. Well, of course, it’s too long. Nine books (some 700 pages) long; I’m not suggesting that you read it in one sitting. As for boring, Herodotus wrote 2500 years ago so you think he’s simply got to be boring: “Aw, he’ll go in for long descriptions!…” “His ideas are way behind the times.” “He’s tediously formal and never cracked a joke in his life…”
Well, I’ve got news for you. Herodotus is neither behind the times, nor boring (and even if he was, you’d be skipping the boring bits with me).
…few history books written since can compare for sheer drama with Herodotus’ narrative of the Persian invasions of Greece, and the Histories contains much more than that besides; all human life is there.
I started to share the best stories of Herodotus not because there was a huge popular demand for it (I’m yet to see the masses clamouring for more – of anything – on this blog) but because I don’t believe that Herodotus belongs to the academics only. People nowadays perceive classical authors as boring; in my experience it’s modern academics who are boring. Herodotus is anything but.
How could you not want to read Herodotus, the first historian, a man of inquisitive mind with the gift of the gab?
I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case believe it.
Herodotus, The Histories, VII. 152
How could you not want to read Herodotus, the author of unforgettable aphorisms and cracking stories? A genuine polymath (it was easier back then) who covers everything and anything from geography to folk customs…? The surprisingly modern thinker and a great champion of liberty and democracy? When you read him, it’s easy to see how much of our modern notions we truly owe to the ancient Greeks:
The rule of the majority, however, not only has the most beautiful and powerful name of all, equality [viz. equality before the law], but in practice, the majority does not act at all like a monarch… the majority chooses its magistrates by lot, it holds all of these officials accountable to an audit, and it refers all resolutions to the authority of the public.
Herodotus, The Histories, III. 80.
An awareness of history plays an important part in forming identity. Herodotus was the man who – while busy writing history – unwittingly created the identity of the West as we know it.
So that’s why you want to read Herodotus. With me. You can start right here:
A Scribble on the Margin: When I first wrote about Herodotus, I hadn't a clue of what I was doing (either with Herodotus or with my blog). I hope I learned something since then: The Best Stories of Herodotus is about to get zingy! So watch this space... and spread the word.