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Herodotus, Explorer of the Past

Herodotus, Explorer of the Past: Three Essays

J.A.S. Evans
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 178
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  • Book Info
    Herodotus, Explorer of the Past
    Book Description:

    Why does a power expand and become an empire? Writing in the early years of the Peloponnesian War, Herodotus gave Athens full credit for saving Greece from Persia, but also identified the city's expansion as a new manifestation of imperialist aggression. In this skillful analysis of Herodotus' intellectual world, J.A.S. Evans combines historical, anthropological, and literary techniques to show how the war affected not only the great thinker's view of Persian aggression and of the people involved in it but also the shape of the Histories themselves. The first essay discusses Herodotus' investigation of imperialism, and the second finds the beginnings of biography in his descriptions of individuals, particularly in his well-crafted portrait of Cyrus. The third essay describes the "Father of History" as a collector and evaluator of local oral stories, sources for the written work that was destined by its scope and unifying plan to introduce a new genre. Evans draws analogies between Herodotus' methods and those of oral historians in other cultures, particularly in precolonial Africa. He also explores comparisons between Herodotus in Egypt and sixteenth-and seventeenth-century European ethnologists in the Americas.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6185-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    This book is the product of two disparate ideas that eventually intermeshed. The first developed out of an old question: What is the precise meaning of Herodotus’ opening sentence? It is not easy to translate without tripping over an anachronism, for the words cannot always mean what they seem. “Histories apodeixis” cannot be a “publication of history,” for although we may believe that Herodotus wrote history, and Cicero recognized him as the “Father of History,” Herodotus would not have comprehended the term with the connotation we give it, for he worked before anthropology, history, and geography had been hived off...

    (pp. 9-40)

    Nine years after their defeat at Marathon, the Persians were ready once again to invade Greece. The Greeks owed a debt of gratitude to Egypt for the delay. For three years after the defeat, Darius had prepared a new assault to wipe out the disgrace, but then Egypt had risen in revolt, and in 486 B.C., Darius died; Xerxes succeeded him and the rebellion was not crushed until 484. Then Xerxes called a synod of the Persian magnates. It was a congress that Herodotus recreated with imaginative skill, but there may be a solid morsel of tradition behind it: in...

    (pp. 41-88)

    Scholars have not ranked Herodotus high as an artist of the portrait sketch. “TheHistoryof Herodotus is a very personal work,” wrote Westlake,¹ contrasting our historian with Thucydides, “and he sometimes fails to provide his readers with a clear and coherent picture of a leading personality; apparently he has not formed such a picture in his mind.” However, it is his portraits, coherent or not, that have come to dominate the historical tradition. The fact that Thucydides thought it necessary to add corrective touches to Herodotus’ etchings of Themistocles and Pausanias demonstrates how powerful his influence was in molding...

    (pp. 89-146)

    It is a fair question to ask if a history such as that which Herodotus wrote can be really finished, and there is no incontrovertible answer to it. He wrote only one work, and as far as we can guess, it occupied his lifetime, or at least that part of his life that he devoted to research. We assume that he died shortly after theHistorieswere published, although I know of nothing to prove it. So we may legitimately ask if theHistoriesare as complete as Herodotus intended, or as they would have been if he had lived...

    (pp. 147-158)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 159-166)