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on October 29, 2003
Herodotus is called "the father of history" and this book is the reason why. It's the earliest attempt at unbiased history, and that attempt was the catalyst for those historians who followe: Thucydides, Xenophon, etc. Even the common usage of the word "histories"--meaning "inquiries"--is due to Herodotus.
This book is filled with stories of all of the people with whom Herodotus was familiar in the ancient Mediterranean world, and a remarkable number of his stories and his descriptions are still considered to be accurate. Of course, some are off a bit, and some are way off the mark, but understanding how well he did--given the information and the means of communication and transportation that were available to him--leave me in awe.
The stories are colorful and wonderful. I was often amazed at how I'd known of many of them before without realizing that they'd come from Herodotus. Still, there are some major drawbacks to reading Herodotus.
First of all, it helps to have an understanding of the ancient world that Herodotus describes. A good map would have been a helpful appendix, but Google searches and some good historical websites are great aids to understanding all of the peoples and places he describes.
Second, Herodotus' writing is not linear in the way that history is written today. His narrative is multi-leveled and sometimes circular as he describes an area or a group of people, then describes those who came before them or influenced them. If you can keep this in mind, it helps to understand why he describes what seem to be tangential topics.
If you're interested in ancient history or like colorful stories, I HIGHLY recommend reading Herodotus. I wish that I had read him earlier as he would have provided a better basis for understanding the thoughts and writings of others who followed him.
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on July 3, 2003
Okay, I will not deny that Herodotus is one of the greatest historians out there. Nor will I deny his ability to tell a good story. I won't deny that his scrutiny of the facts is refreshing in an era of blind acceptance of religious tradition.
BUT, I struggled to even finish the book. Herodotus's digressions are MADDENING. I have trouble keeping track of who did what to who. Just when I get a hold of what is going on, he changes the focus to another part of the world or another facet of culture.
Most introductions don't help at all with this. The scholars all assume that you already know enough of the main history and get into the deep, involved parts. Now, if Robert B. Strassler would do for Herodotus what he has done for Thucydides, it would be a lot easier for the uninitiated to read.
Maybe it's because I'm a poor, unattentive reader, but I just can't give it a high rating.
Good book, bad edition, hence the two stars. I recommend this to lovers of ancient history with the above reservations.
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on June 11, 2001
I was surprised to find the Histories to be so readable and enjoyable. I'm not used to thinking of a history book as a page-turner but the last four chapters of the Histories, which describe the Persian wars, were compelling reading. That's not to slight the first five book, which describe the world of Herodotus' time and the rise of the Persian, Egyptian and Greek Empires in fascinating detail.
Despite the rather formal language of the translation, the Histories are very engaging. Herodotus not only illuminates critical details of historical events but enlivens them with anecdotes and legends, some of this likely apocryphal. Rawlinson's translation is very good and his footnotes, despite their age, are outstanding. The best thing is that they are footnotes, not endnotes, so you won't break your fingers constantly flipping to the back of the book.
One critical missing element, however, is a map. A map of the world in Herodotus's time (such as I found online) would really make a lot of the events clearer.
In the time since I have read Herodotus, I have begun to appreciate how his Histories are the cornerstone of a classical education. The Histories are constantly referenced in western literature in everything from the Divine Comedy to the English Patient to Lawrence of Arabia to Ball Four.
If you're trying to give yourself a good foundation in history and western culture, this is the best place to start.
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on September 18, 2000
Herodotus is often called the "Father of History", but he did not write like modern historians, and he should not be read like modern historians. Herodotudus is telling a story - the story of the Persian War. His subject is large and his scope is huge - no detail is omitted. He tells not only the history of the Persian Empire, but the histories of the nation conquered by it, including Egypt and the Greek Colonies in Asia. He uses all the information at his disposal, and he sometimes voices his own opinions. One reviewer said he makes things up, but I don't thing that is true nor fair. Herodotus sometimes gives multiple accounts of the same event rather than choosing one story over the other, and no doubt at other times he synthesizes multiple accounts. On some things, like the source of the niles flooding, he offers his own theory. I think he is almost always truthful and honest about his sources and upfront about his histories. All in all, this is great reading - a mix of history, tales, myth, geography and always good story-telling. To be sure, there are times when the reading is dry and even a little boring, and this is not reading that everyone will enjoy. But if you are interested in ancient history or the classics in general, I think you will enjoy Herodotus.
I have this particular edition, the Everyman's Library hardback. I liked it very much. With the classics, the translation is key, and I was very happy with the text. The prose was relaxed and fluid, never overbearing or difficult to read. The footnotes were also excellent, explaining ancient versus modern naming for places, giving extra information from other sources, and in general explaining anything that the layman might not know. I bought a book with maps of the ancint world to help locate some of the locations. Maybe somday someone will publich a "Landmark Herodotus" with maps and such like they did with Thucydides - "The Landmark Thucydides : A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War", by Robert B. Strassler (Editor), Victor Davis Hanson (Introduction). Paperback - 752 pages (September 1998) Touchstone Books; ISBN: 0684827905 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.48 x 9.27 x 7.34
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on April 14, 2002
In case classical literature still lies in your future, you can look forward with delight to a wonderful story-teller of the 5th century BC, the first known of a genre. His tales are often mythical and require decipherment to get at their historical sources, if any. In addition, however, we get the first clear view of the Fars, long before they converted to Islam, a few centuries after they had arrived in Iran, and were still extended into a large part of southern Russia, where they contended with mounted shooters called the Skyths. The Fars today have long since been amalgamated into one people. Herodotus gives some detail of the people who were there before the Fars. He also details the assault of this new Persian Empire on the Greek world and its containment via the first enthralling battle stories ever: Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis.
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on June 21, 2014
The Landmark edition has better notes and copious maps. If you are a complete novice the Landmark edition is easier to read because of the additional material. However, if you are familiar with the classical world or its geography or know how to use google to find a map of the ancient world, then this is the edition for you. Unlike the Landmark, this edition will not come unglued because it is sewn, and the paper will not fade or rip with age and use. This is the edition to last. Landmark is a great edition printed on low quality paper. I have all the Landmark series and they are all held together with Duct-tape.

I like this older translation, it reads well and is supposed to be closely aligned to Herodotus' own tone.
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on April 28, 2001
I first heard about Herodotus on a television program where they were discussing the Amazons. According to Herodotus Amazons lived near the Black Sea. Later historians have ridiculed Herodotus for having many "fanciful" tales but recent excavations have discovered women buried with spears etc. As the author points out Herodotus most "fanciful" tales are qualified with "I have heard" and some he doubts himself. All in all I believe that the reader will be amazed at the knowledge of the ancients rather than their lack of knowledge.
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on December 2, 1999
Herodotus didn't write the dull, plodding account of Greek history that the size of this book might lead you to expect. Instead, he sowed his general narrative with humorous details and vivid, entertaining stories that bring the values and attitudes of his time to life. This is one of the most enjoyable of the Greek classics.
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on November 25, 2010
Very good reproduction copy, but regrettably the publisher has omitted the maps that are a valuable part of the original work; these maps are very useful for understanding the text and the spatial extent of the Greek ecumene. RCM
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