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Brill's Companion to the Reception of Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond offers new insights on the reception and cultural transmission of one of the most controversial and influential texts to have survived from Classical Antiquity. This companion, edited by Jessica Priestley and Vasiliki Zali, examines the reception of Herodotus in a range of cultural contexts, from the fifth century BC to the twentieth century AD. The essays consider key topics such as Herodotus' place in the Western historiographical tradition, translation of and scholarly engagement with the Histories , and the use of the Histories as a model for describing and interpreting cultural and geographical material.

Editor: Francesco Venturi. This volume investigates the various ways in which writers comment on, present, and defend their own works, and at the same time themselves, across early modern Europe. A multiplicity of self-commenting modes, ranging from annotations to explicatory prose to prefaces to separate critical texts and exemplifying a variety of literary genres, are subjected to analysis.

Self-commentaries are more than just an external apparatus: they direct and control reception of the primary text, thus affecting notions of authorship and readership. With the writer understood as a potentially very influential and often tendentious interpreter of their own work, the essays in this collection offer new perspectives on pre-modern and modern forms of critical self-consciousness, self-representation, and self-validation.

Editor: Lisa Maurice. Greece and Rome have long featured in books for children and teens, whether through the genres of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery stories or mythological compendiums. These depictions and adaptations of the Ancient World have varied at different times, however, in accordance with changes in societies and cultures.

It is to this second, far grander conflict that the most famous Herodotean tales of the Persian Wars belong; not for nothing do the names Thermopylae and Salamis still mean something today. In particular, the heroically suicidal stand of the three hundred Spartans—who, backed by only a couple of thousand allied troops, held the pass at Thermopylae against tens of thousands of Persians, long enough for their allies to escape and regroup farther to the south—has continued to resonate.

But the persistent appeal of such scenes, in which the outnumbered Greeks unexpectedly triumph over the masses of Persian invaders, is ultimately less a matter of storytelling than of politics. The Persians are associated with motifs of lashing, binding, and punishment.

Guide to the classics: The Histories, by Herodotus

The unstable leader of a ruthlessly centralized authoritarian state is a nightmare vision that has plagued the sleep of liberal democracies ever since Herodotus created it. Gripping and colorful as the invasions and their aftermaths are, the Greco-Persian Wars themselves make up just half of the Histories—from the middle of Book 5 to the end of the ninth, and final, book.

The first four and a half books of the Histories make up the first panel of what is, in fact, a diptych: they provide a leisurely account of the rise of the empire that will fall so spectacularly in the second part. In Book 1, there are the exotic Massagetae, who were apparently strangers to the use, and abuse, of wine. The Persians—like Odysseus with the Cyclops—get them drunk and then trounce them. In Book 2 come the Egyptians, with their architectural immensities, their crocodiles, and their mummified pets, a nation whose curiosities are so numerous that the entire book is devoted to its history, culture, and monuments.

In Book 3, the Persians come up against the Ethiopians, who Herodotus has heard are the tallest and most beautiful of all peoples. What gives this tale its unforgettable tone and character—what makes the narrative even more leisurely than the subject warrants—are those infamous, looping digressions: the endless asides, ranging in length from one line to an entire book Egypt , about the flora and fauna, the lands and the customs and cultures, of the various peoples the Persian state tried to absorb. Which is to say, from piles of sand rich in gold dust, created by a species of—what else?

Since ancient times, all readers of Herodotus, whatever their complaints about his reliability, have acknowledged him as a master prose stylist. The lulling cadences and hypnotically spiralling clauses in each of his sentences—which replicate, on the microcosmic level, the ambling, appetitive nature of the work as a whole—suggest how hard Herodotus worked to bring literary artistry, for the first time, to prose. Purvis, is both naked and pedestrian. A revealing example is her translation of the Preface, which, as many scholars have observed, cannily appropriates the high-flown language of Homeric epic to a revolutionary new project: to record the deeds of real men in real historical time.

But why foreordained? What, exactly, did the Persian empire do wrong? Cyrus dies, in fact, after ill-advisedly crossing the river Araxes, considered a boundary between Asia and Europe. Early in the Histories, Herodotus makes reference to the way in which cities and states rise and fall, suddenly giving an ostensibly natural principle a moralizing twist:. I shall.

Figuring out the fantastic

And so, resting on my knowledge that human prosperity never remains constant, I shall make mention of both without discrimination. The passage suggests that, both for states and for individuals, a coherent order operates in the universe. In this sense, history turns out to be not so different from that other great Greek invention—tragedy. The debt owed by Herodotus to Athenian tragedy, with its implacable trajectories from grandeur to abjection, has been much commented on by classicists, some of whom even attribute his evolution from a mere note-taker to a grand moralist of human affairs to the years spent in Athens, when he is said to have been a friend of Sophocles.

These neat symmetries, you begin to realize, turn up everywhere, as a well-known passage from Book 3 makes clear:. Divine providence in its wisdom created all creatures that are cowardly and that serve as food for others to reproduce in great numbers so as to assure that some would be left despite the constant consumption of them, while it has made sure that those animals which are brutal and aggressive predators reproduce very few offspring.

The hare, for example, is hunted by every kind of beast, bird, and man, and so reproduces prolifically. Of all animals, she is the only one that conceives while she is already pregnant.

But the lioness, since she is the strongest and boldest of animals, gives birth to only one offspring in her entire life, for when she gives birth she expels her womb along with her young. Likewise, if vipers and the Arabian winged serpents were to live out their natural life spans, humans could not survive at all.

For Herodotus, virtually everything can be assimilated into a kind of natural cycle of checks and balances. He pauses to give you information, however remotely related, about everything he mentions, and that information can take the form of a three-thousand-word narrative or a one-line summary. The passage about lions, hares, and vipers reminds you of the other great objection to Herodotus—his unreliability. For one thing, nearly everything he says about those animals is wrong.

Did Xerxes really weep when he reviewed his troops? Did the aged, corrupt Hippias, the exiled tyrant of Athens now in the service of Darius, really lose a tooth on the beach at Marathon before the great battle began, a sign that he interpreted correctly to mean that he would never take back his homeland? Perhaps not. But that sudden closeup, in which the preparations for war focus, with poignant suddenness, on a single hopeless old has-been, has indelible power.