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Robert Strasssler - Editor
Andrea Purvis - Translator
Introduction by Rosalind Thomas


Pantheon Books, NY. 2007, 955 pgs., copious maps, diagrams of the major battles, chronology, elaborate annotations, encyclopedic index, 21 informative appendices, glossary, chronology, annotated sources, and extensive bibliography. The editor, Robert Strassler, provides important information on the methods for creating this remarkable work


Reviewer Comment:

This is an incredible work of scholarship. Readers used to reading the small Modern Library edition and struggling to identify and remember the multitude of names of individuals and locations, will shout 'hallelujah' Students of military history are almost always faced with texts that lack adequate maps. In these four Landmark series editions the maps are magnificant and prolific. Footnotes on each page reference the name of every geographic location to appropriate maps. Readers are generally faced with the ancient authors continually mentioning important individual actors as if everyone knows who they are ( which if course was true with respect to their original audiences). Now, finally, we have copious footnotes on each page each and every time the name of any individual appears. But even this detailed treatment of Herodotus' work is insufficient for the modern reader since he also presumes the audience knows as much as he does about contemporary Greek politics (which is why he devotes so much attention to Persia, Egypt, Scythia and other topics that his readers likely did not know enought about). To aleviate this problem the editorial team has provided the 21 topical appendices written by specialists on the various subjects included.


Introduction - Rosalind Thomas

Professor Thomas first explains what Herodotus was doing and why we consider it the first literary work of true history. She notes that he was born in Halicarnaassus, lived briefly in Athens, traveled extensively all over the eastern Mediterranian region and finally settled in Thuri, in southern Italy. She writes that, while the theme of the book is the Greek-Persian war, its context includes not only the period leading up to the war but also the subsequent conflict between Athens and Sparta. In seeking to explain the causes of the war Herodotus provides much information on geography, culture and the customs of many diverse peoples. He recounts many stories and ideas he has found but tries to diferentiate what he consideres myths and rumors from facts.But nevertheless many tall tales remain. Professor Thomas expounds at length on the 'reliability' of Herodotus, noting that this is a controversial issue amoung historians today.


Editor's Preface - Robert Strassler

Dr. Strassler begins by noting that his own opinion of Herodotus in comparison to Thucydides has increased greatly once he began the detailed of the former while preparing this edition. He gives great credit to Herodotus for his research and writing. But, unfortunately, readers today are unable from the detailed text itself to understand quite a bit of what is going on due to the vast changes that have taken place not only in the physical world but also in the cultural one. Thus previous editions of Herodotus, even those with excellent translations, lack sufficient explainatory information. Especially are maps lacking (hurray). He has provided an amazing 127 maps that contain copious information. He explains the methodology for creating and using these maps. He also describes the footnotes and references that accompany the text- another remendous help for the reader todayv.


Here is an outline of the content.

Notice the masterful way in which Herodotus breaks his narrative to digress into detailed historical background - for instance, Persia, Egypt and Scythia are described at the appropriate places where they become involved in the story. Notice also how the subject of each chapter relates to a shorter chronological period as the detail of the narrative becomes more dense. The actual Persian invasions of Greece took place from 490 to 480 and contemporary Greeks surely knew most of what was important about this period - Actually Herodotus relied on learning about this period and events himself from other Greeks for the most part. But for Herodotus this was not enough. He spent years traveling to Egypt and Persia and even to out of the way places like Scythia to reconstruct the entire picture of the war and its causes. Herodotus places great importance on the actions of individuals, hence he describes their personalities, beliefs, objectives and personal causes for their decisions. As a central aspect of this he places their family relations and the important place families played in Greek (and Persian) policy.


Book One 716 - 530 B.C.-

After Herodotus explains his purpose, he starts his history in Asia around 716 B.C. He wants to provide the background for the coming Persian-Greek war by describing Lydia and its relationship to the Greeks. He then switches back and forth to Sparta and Athens and Corinth and back to Capadocia. Next comes the history of Croesus of Sardis. Herodotus changes the subject to provide a biographical sketch of Cyrus and his rise to power in Persia and Media. This leads to Cyrus' conquest of Lydia which brings the Persians eventually to the Ionian cities on the coast. Cyrus then conquers Babylon and dies fighting the Massagetai on the border of Afghanistan and Central Asia.


Book Two about 3000 B.C. - 530 -

Cambyses takes over from Cyrus -Since Cambyses will invade Egypt in Book Three, Herodotus provides an extensive discussion of Egypt based on his personal research in Egypt and discussion with Egyptian priests.


Book Three - 530 - 522 -

Herodotus returns to Cambyses who is about to launch the Persian conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia - Herodotus jumps to Sparta, Corinth and Samos during Cambyses' campaign in Egypt. Then he travels to Susa and Syria to explain how Darius takes over from Cambyses. Finally he describes the early years of Darius' reign to the suppression of the revolt in Babylon.


Book Four - 513 (with historical background)

Herodotus next travels to Scythia. This is background for Darius' unsuccessful campaign across the Danube into Scythia. But the Persian campaign ends with their preparing to take control of Thrace and gaining control over Macedon. Another apparant digression follows, this time to discuss Greek relations with Lybia. But the relevance is the Persian conquest of Lybia that followed their subjugation of Egypt.


Book Five - 512 - 496 -

The book begins with Darius campaign in Thrace and Macedon, shifts back to Persia, then focuses on the Ionian Revolt of 499-494. Then the story shifts to Greece proper where Sparta, Athens, and Aegina wage war on each other. Their relationships bear directly on subsequent actions when they face the Persians.


Book Six - 496 - 489 -

Herodotus provides more detail on the final years leading up to Marathon. He explains Miltiades' background prior to the battle. Already from the first chapter we note the great emphasis Herodotus places on individual actors, describing their personalities and policies and family relationships. In this chapter the focus on individual Greek leaders is dominant. The chapter ends with the all too brief and general description of the Battle of Marathon and its immediate aftermath.


Book Seven - 489 - 480 -

This chapter and the next two are probably the centerpiece of the history in Herodotus' mind. This chapter is devoted to the preparations undertaken by Darius for a full scale invasion, his death, and then Xerxes' execution of the invasion plan. The book ends with the battle of Thermopylae.


Book Eight - 480 - 479 -

Filled with detailed description of the battles at Artemision and Salamis with related developments in and between the Greek cities


Book Nine - 479 -

The Battles at Plataea and Mycale bring the Persian invasion to a conclusion with the Greek victory. But we know that the story did not end then. See Thucydides, Xenophon and Arrian for the rest of the story


Appendices A and B -

Athenian Government and Spartan State in War and Peace


Apendices C, D, E, F, G -

Herodotus on geography and peoples - specifically Egypt and Scythia.


Apendices H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, T, U -

Aspects of Greece


Apendices N, O, R, S -

Greek and Persian military


Appendix M -

Persian Empire


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