Author’s Review: The Histories

Posted: December 19, 2008 in author's review
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For this, the second, Author’s Review we are going back, way back to a very old book, The Histories, by Herodotus of Halicarnassus.  The Histories was written around 440BC, which makes it about as old as I feel most mornings.

Herodotus is said to have been born in Halicarnassus, an ancient Greek city that lies in what is present day Turkey, sometime around 484BC.  He is often regarded as the ‘Father of History’, due mainly to his writings of The Histories, a record of his inquiries, but has also been called the “Father of Lies’.  The debate on which he is has been going on almost as long as The Histories has been around.  Those for the latter debate the veracity of his tales and claim he fabricated much of his work.  The former point out to his methodical way he went about collecting his materials, testing their accuracy to an extend and them compiling them in a narrative.  Many times in the book he presents several accounts of of an event, then writes what he believes was the most probable.  He travelled extensively around the known world in a bid to write more accuratly.

The Histories are considered the first work of history in western literature, and concern the Greco-Persian Wars fought in the 5th century BC.  These wars included such noteable battles as Marathon, Thermopylae, Plataea and Salamis.  Herodotus states the reasoning for his writing of The Histories right at the start; Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his enquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds – some displayed by Greeks, some by Barbarians – may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two peoples fought with each other.

It is not just a book about the wars though, for Herodutus touches many subjects in the book, of the peoples of the known world, of the nature of the world and the status of sciences as were known during his time.

I first came across The Histories in college, when studying ancient civilisations.  Those from the USA call university college, but from where I went to school, college was the last two years of high school.  Here endeth that lesson.

I liked the book a lot, its rambling style touching many subjects, its glimpse into a world long since gone, and its inspiration.  I had read prior to that another ancient history, History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, and both had a big influence on me.  I have always been a history geek – I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was only five.  Such matters do come out in my writings, or at least the world creation behind my writings.  The history needs to work, make sense, and above all, advance.  Have you noticed how in many works of fantasy that they seem to be perpetually in a state roughly akin to the middle ages?  They never go forward and they never seen to have advanced from, say, the bronze ages, to there.

That does irk me somewhat, and as a result in the world of Sharael that does not happen.  There is a bronze age period, with a somewhat mapped history, characters, planned events and the likes.  Given the influence of The Histories, the Illiad and Odessey and the Peloponnesian Wars had on me, the style of writing for that period of history in Sharael is slated to be different than in more later periods – check out Cahuac and the Sun short story for an idea of what I mean.  I do also have plans for a book in the style of The Histories and the Peloponnesian War detailing the events of the bronze age wars between the Maedari and Chelosians, but that is more of a vanity project for the future.  Hopefully after I get established.

If you enjoy history, it is a highly recommendable book, and for everyone else, read it anyway.  You may just enjoy it.

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