Finally a book report from the Alan Olee Book Report Blog! Well. Almost. Let’s talk about it first…
I suppose I read and have read books that most other people would avoid – and that’s one of my motivations for this blog; to share things you may not be familiar with. There’s also a lot of things I don’t read anymore – novels? Never read them anymore. Not in any genre. Ever. I’ve read a fair number of them in my life; but some time ago lost all interest. Won’t be too many novels reported on here. I don’t know that many!
Here’s an example of things I read I’ll bet you have avoided: the ancient classics. I’m just finishing “Plutarch’s Lives, Volume One”. Before that it was “The History of the Peloponnesian War” by Thucydides. And the granddaddy of all history / travel books, “The Histories”, by Herodotus. Stacked on top of one another they measure a little over 5 and a half inches tall. Lots of words!
The Histories is where we start – at 584 pages including index, it’s quite the tome; but what is it about? How and why was it written?
It was written by Herodotus, who was born on the west coast of Lydia (present day Turkey) in the Greek city of Halicarassus in 484 BC. He died in 425 BC. The Histories was written sometime between 450 BC to 420 BC. So he started writing it in his mid thirties, and worked on it for around thirty years. And let’s be clear, it didn’t start as anything we would recognize as a “book”. It was written on longish sheets of paper that were rolled up between spools. And naturally it was written entirely by hand.
And as far as we know, no one had ever written anything quite like this before – a complete descriptive history in narrative form of peoples, nations, and sweeping events – what we refer to as “history”. He invented the form whole clothe. So he is sometimes called, “The Father of History”.
Oh we had heroic narratives, the occasional monument to the local megalomaniac complete with inscriptions, (king of kings, smiter of smiters, the biggest, the baddest, blah, blah, blah), but nothing like The Histories.
The main narrative thrust is conflicts between the Persian Empire and the Greek City States, in the fifth century BC (499-449 BC). The battle of Marathon, the last-stand by the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, that Persian war! And note that Herodotus was neither a politician nor a soldier. By some accounts he was just a well traveled merchant of sorts, curious about customs and peoples.
But you can find all manner of scholarly treatments; here I’d just like to focus in on specific sections I found interesting – a bunch of mini-reports rather than any sweeping all-encompassing critique; and then relate those snips to people today. You know, the people that lived 2500 years ago were a lot like us – different cultures, different times, same stories!
Oh, my copy cost me $6.95 brand new.
More to follow!
Oh, and don’t miss Run Boy Run at the MIM if you are in Phoenix on Friday night!
Think it is great you are reviewing the books that others won’t take the time to read as they have much to offer and we appreciate your doing this!
Thanks for the kind words, and yes; you got it, I’m reading all these books so the people with much to offer don’t have to read them – therefore having more time to offer stuff. Hope that’s clear!
For the next installment, I am tempted to do a write up on the section Herodotus wrote about Babylon, specifically how in ancient Babylon they made sure all the girls got a husband; even the unattractive ones, but I think instead I’m going to tackle the section that provides the best rationale I have ever heard for why all men of fighting age need to play the harp instead of, you know, fight! Has to do with your health.