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Throughout this part, as everywhere else in the volume there are both comparisons with ways in which later historians developed or changed Herodotean rhetorical creations and extensive notes on modern opinions an d discussions of the points at issue. Added to lists of passages where such omissions occur because of universal ignorance, possible uncertainty or personal doubt are those occasions where a rhetorical question indicates the nature of the research problem.
A further inventory catalogues matters deliberately excluded on religious or other grounds.
The more general question of selection is obviously not answered since omission of material unknown to us can not be detected. Next in Part Two Herodotus' use and evaluation of alternative versions is examined and followed by a catalogue of examples. Despite Herodotus' insistence that he is obliged to report what he is told 2.
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But L. As the title suggests it is unclear whether the subject is sources or objections thereto; surely even in the following "Inventory of Herodotean Polemic" there are many instances of sources quoted for information rather than contradiction. Part III " Poiesis : How Herodotus Makes Sense of Historical Facts" deals with four structuring techniques which "unify the data, the raw materials of the Histories into a remarkably comprehensive and comprehensible narrative form" p.
In "The Place of Chronology", L.
The first and third involve limits and their transgression, and these are omnipresent in the Histories , but whether as organizing principles or as simply Greek and Herodotean ways of seeing things is uncertain. More puzzling as a structuring element is the subject of women, except in so far as folktale's cherchez la femme motif has infiltrated a variety of sources.
Is this an attempt to divine purpose from result? And it is questionable too whether the considerable amount of ethnographic information that came to Herodotus strained through Greek accounts and interpreters could be relied on to "isolate Greek uniqueness" p.
The final chapter "The Failure and Success of Herodotus" takes up Herodotus' isolation with respect to literary technique, scope and creative vision, setting him apart from his successors. Strassler and bristling with appendices, by a phalanx of experts, on everything from the design of Athenian warships to ancient units of liquid measure.
These thriving settlements, which maintained close ties with their mother cities across the Aegean to the west, began, in the early sixth century B. The Histories begins with a tale that illustrates this process of imperialist digestion—the story of Croesus, the famously wealthy king of Lydia. The fall of Croesus, in B. Some of the rebellious cities had appealed to Athens and Sparta for military aid, and Athens, at least, had responded. Contemporary historians see a different, less personal motive at the root of the war that was to follow: the inevitable, centrifugal logic of imperialist expansion.
And yet, for all their might, both Persian expeditions came to grief. The achievement was such that the Greeks, breaking with their tradition of taking their dead back to their cities, buried them on the battlefield and erected a grave mound over the spot. It can still be seen today. Against all odds, the scrappy Greek coalition—this one including ultraconservative Sparta, usually loath to get involved in Panhellenic doings—managed to resist yet again.
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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. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 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.
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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.