The first four books of The Persian Wars serve as an introduction to the actual conflict itself. In this leisurely unwinding of events, people, and places, Herodotus provides the listener with a fascinating glimpse of the Ancient World. It is a marvelous journey into an exotic time filled with strange and savage tribes, beautiful cities and monuments, and - as always - born along on that inimitable charm that is unique to Herodotus.
Translation by George Rawlinson.
©2003 Audio Connoisseur
I had heard of Herodotus since my boyhood but assumed he was irrelevant due to old age. However, since signing up for Audible.com I have taken a great liking to ancient histories.
I have found the reading of this book so excellent that I thought I was listening to the author himself. The reading is so comfortable and warm that I just decided to take a trip on the river of history and let Herodotus carry me where he wished.
The most touching and almost inspiring section was Herodotus' decription of how the Athenians felt about defending their homeland from destruction, how they felt about and valued their political and personal freedoms, and how they realized their culture was unique in the world and thus vital to save.
Herodotus talks about the most personal habits of the various cultures he visits, and tells a great story. Sometimes his accuracy seems remarkable, and other times his observations and facts were charming but wrong. I found it interesting to hear how kings justified going to battle, and how they got their subjects to go along with them.
Herodotus and the ancients put great faith in oracles, and I can only wonder...
I recommend the entire book's two parts, and am looking forward to listening to reader Charlton Griffin's other readings.
If Herodotus wants to give you his opinion on the vanity of the Egyptian Pharaoh Cheops, he first travels to Egypt to talk to the source (dozens of local priests, wise men, and even customers at the local taverns). Then he'll personally measure both the Cheops pyramid and his brother's pyramid to confirm that Cheops' was 40 feet taller than Dedefre's.
He'll even take a 10 week trip up the Nile just to collect and compare stories on what is the source of that river (which he never really determines to his own satisfaction.
Remember, this was 2400 years ago when a native escort in a canoe or a camel caravan had to substitute for a bus or plane ride. This is what I call extreme dedication (or maniacal curiosity).
What is fact and what is fiction in the stories he collects? And do historians give Herodotus adequate credit for what he has accomplished? It makes no matter. Almost every book, every thesis, every anecdote on Ancient Western Civilization can trace its seeds back to Herodotus, the original historical reference book.
Bottom line, this work is for the serious historical enthusiast. And if you are one, then it is very possible you will appreciate this as one of the most import works you have read.
The Persian Wars is an amazing window in time, among the greatest gifts from antiquity. Undoubtedly, this is the best way to get, at least, some appreciation of the brutality, superstition, enmity, doubt, hearsay, and ridiculous speculation that completely ruled the lives of every person living 2400 years ago.
I have found that only the ancient historians can provide us with a profound appreciation of the impact that superstition and religion had on essentially every human action. A modern historian can tell you this, but when you hear it from someone who lived then, as simply an everyday and integral part of their story, it really comes to life.
For me, it is a jaw-dropping experience to hear how some of the most import events in history were decided by a witch doctor's interpretation of the flight of birds or of the quality of the lobes of the liver of a sacrificial victim. Neither Hollywood nor our modern educational system gives us any real appreciation of the vast quantities of animals and people who were sacrificed in ancient times for these purposes.
You are going to need a good atlas of ancient Greece and Persia if you listen to this. These are easily found in any public library. Unfortunately, there is no single history currently available from Audible that will provide you with the background you will need. I do not think it makes any difference whether you listen to Cyril Robinson's history of Greece before listening to Herodotus Persian Wars. Both presuppose that the reader has an education of the ancient world that most people born in the twentieth century do not have. Yet, each work fills in many of the pieces lacking in the other.
Charlton Griffin's narration is absolutely amazing. And I cannot imagine a more difficult work to narrate. MB
?The Persian Wars? is my first purchase from audible and I am very pleased by the quality. Charlton Griffin is a great reader and all of his productions with Audio Connoisseur are well done.
Herodotus is considered the father of history and ?The Persian Wars? is the first book of it?s kind. Part 1 of ?The Persian Wars? is a long introduction describing the events leading up to the Persian wars and an overview of the world as the Greeks knew it. The accuracy is sometimes in question because Herodotus collected stories from various sources. However, he is more accurate when describing people and events that are closer to him in time and place. Herodotus sometimes lacks in analysis, though there is a reoccurring theme that hubris brings the destruction of men. The concepts of accuracy and analysis are further developed in the works of later historians such as Thucydides.
This is not an easy book to get through. The numerous names of people and places can get a bit confusing. A basic understanding of Greek history and a map would be helpful for those who want to delve into this work.
Part 2 of this volume describes the actual wars between the Persians and the Greeks. If you want to go on a long, strange trip then sit back, relax and listen to Herodotus!
I wanted to love this book. I really did. I was ready to cast off 21st Century expectations and delve into the "legendary charm" of this ancient writer. I wanted to find in Herodotus the "magnificent epic of human triumph over the forces of tyranny" promised by the Publishers. Perhaps the fault is mine, but I found instead a confusing littany of doubtful and frequently uninteresting assertions about long-forgotten tribes and peoples. Not knowing whether his tales are true or fanciful, it is difficult to be either impressed or amused by the accounts of Herodotus. This leaves us to rely on the quality of the writing alone, and Herodotus is certainly charmingly entertaining in this regard, often sounding more like a town gossip than a historian. This book remains a classic with good reason, and I can think of no contemporary writer who wrote with the style and exuberance of Herodotus. But his book's appeal is probably much narrower than the publishers imply. That appeal, unfortunately, largely eluded me.
Well, I should have been warned when listening to the sample, so it's all my fault, but Charlton Griffin's stagey, portentous narration becomes painful after a very short time, and the great words of Herodotus start to sound almost comical. Give this one a miss. I never even bothered downloading Part 2. I'll buy the actual book instead, I think.
I also wanted to like this book. The going is dry, however. This is more chronology than history: a recital of anecdotes and stories. There is no analysis, no linking of cause and effect, just a long inventory of cruelty, despotism and terror.
This book really needs to be read with a map of the ancient world in hand. The archaic names of peoples and places are hard to relate to. It is puzzling why the central character of "The English Patient" would be so attached to this book.
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