First Graf: The Histories

WERE IT NOT FOR HERODOTUS — lauded as the “Father of History,” derided as the “Father of Lies” — we would know nothing of, among other things, the tale of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans and how it affected the Ascent of the West.

The Histories is more than a simple record of who-said-and-did-what-when. In it you will find plenty about the war between the Greeks and Persians, but also contemporary details of Egyptian and Babylonian culture; how to gather cinnamon despite the objections of giant bats “who shriek alarmingly and are very pugnacious;” an account of the horseback-warrior Scythians; many tales both tall and short; and much fodder for D&D campaigns or pleasant afternoon reveries.

This seminal work is available online as part of Project Gutenberg, but the text from which this First Graf is taken is the 1972 Penguin Classics edition translated by Aubrey De Selincourt. After a 30-page introduction by A. R. Burn, we get to the meat of the book, which begins like this:

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, his Researches are here set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of other peoples; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict.

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