Most helpful positive review
The Father of History
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.