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Writing it down

Peter Parsons, 31 August 1989

Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens 
by Rosalind Thomas.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 521 35025 5
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... in Athenian society, and the consequences for Greek historians and their modern analysts. Herodotus, chronicling the great patriotic war of the last generation, and Thucydides, chronicling the great civil war of his own, in the new-fangled medium of prose and the new-fangled language of research, relied heavily on eye and ear, witnesses and ...

The European (Re)discovery of the Shamans

Carlo Ginzburg, 28 January 1993

... had, in turn, transferred onto the Thracians the description of a Scythian custom furnished by Herodotus (IV, 73-75). The point of this digression is to allow us to reconstruct the cultural filter which permitted Oviedo (and not only him, as we shall see) to tame the natural and cultural otherness of the North American continent. Thanks to Pomponius Mela ...

What Columbus Didn’t Know

Peter Green: The history of cartography, 21 February 2002

The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, the Man who Discovered Britain 
by Barry Cunliffe.
Allen Lane, 182 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9509 2
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Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters 
edited by J. Lennart Berggren and Alexander Jones.
Princeton, 232 pp., £17.95, January 2002, 0 691 09259 1
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Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World: Atlas and Map-By-Map Directory 
by Richard J.A. Talbert.
Princeton, three volumes, £300, September 2000, 9780691031699
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... As early as 600, Phoenicians had circumnavigated Africa, only to have their account discredited by Herodotus because they asserted that ‘in sailing round Libya’ – Africa – ‘they had the sun on their right hand’: ironically, the Southern hemisphere in fact provided proof positive of their claim. The idea of a spherical globe had been dreamed up by ...

Things they don’t want to hear

Clancy Martin: Lydia Davis, 22 July 2010

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis 
Hamish Hamilton, 733 pp., £20, August 2010, 978 0 241 14504 3Show More
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... tell themselves nothing at all, but even this is meaningful, as in ‘Certain Knowledge from Herodotus’: ‘These are the facts about the fish in the Nile:’. That’s the whole story. Of course there is a play on the word ‘certain’ (‘certain’ is one of Davis’s favourite words, it occurs in a great many of her stories): ‘certain’ as in a ...

Great Kings, Strong Kings, Kings of the Four Quarters

Peter Green: The Achaemenids, 6 May 2015

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE 
by Matt Waters.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £19.99, January 2014, 978 0 521 25369 7
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... as the Achaemenid dynasty. That the prize Darius won was worth fighting for hardly needs saying. Herodotus, who spent the first half of his Histories exploring the many nations under Achaemenid rule, tells us that the annual tribute they paid was the equivalent of 14,560 talents; since the bulk of the sum was paid in gold and silver, with the talent set at a ...

The Day a God Rode In

Claire Hall: Meetings with their Gods, 20 February 2020

The Realness of Things Past: Ancient Greece and Ontological History 
by Greg Anderson.
Oxford, 336 pp., £55, September 2018, 978 0 19 088664 6
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... chariot. She was to pretend to be the manifestation of the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens. Herodotus gives her height as some four cubits – around 5’11", more than a foot taller than the average woman at the time – and notes that not only was she dressed in full armour but was ‘instructed of the bearing in which she might best beseem her ...

Adrift from Locality

James Davidson: Captain Cook’s Mistake, 3 November 2005

Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 334 pp., £21, December 2004, 0 226 73400 5
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... simply unable to view the culture he is swimming in, an endotopic observer in contrast to exotopic Herodotus, the observer of others, for ‘it takes another culture to know another culture.’ One can get around this problem – and it is more of a problem than Sahlins is prepared to admit – in various ways. I suppose the answer that would occur to most ...

Megafauna

Adrienne Mayor: Aristotle and Science, 1 July 2015

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
Bloomsbury, 501 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4088 3620 0
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... explain scallop and other shells found far inland, in Asia Minor, Armenia and Iran. By the time of Herodotus this understanding of shells and fish marooned by receding seas had become general knowledge. Aristotle knew the writings of Xenophanes, Xanthos and Herodotus, and he had examined and dissected countless fish and ...

Image Problems

Peter Green: Pericles of Athens, 6 November 2014

Pericles of Athens 
by Vincent Azoulay, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Princeton, 291 pp., £24.95, July 2014, 978 0 691 15459 6
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... seldom emphasised, is that the basic evidence, such as it is, has been in plain view all along: Herodotus, Thucydides, Old Comedy, Protagoras, Xenophon, Plato, Plutarch’s biography and of course the remains (above all on the Acropolis) of the great civic building programme. This suggests that any interpretative changes are due more to the varying ...

Impressions of Nietzsche

Keith Kyle, 27 July 1989

The Lives of Enoch Powell 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Bodley Head, 518 pp., £16, April 1989, 0 370 30871 9
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... of Llyfr Belgywryd (the Law Book of the Welsh King Hywel the Good), the author of the Lexicon to Herodotus, of a massive history of The House of Lords in the Middle Ages, of a short life of Joseph Chamberlain, and of the major work on the reinterpretation of the New Testament on which he is presently engaged, is perceptibly the same man who attacked the ...

Only a Hop and a Skip to Money

James Buchan: Gold, 16 November 2000

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession 
by Peter Bernstein.
Wiley, 432 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 471 25210 7
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... the end of the seventh century BC and the beginning of the sixth. We also possess the Histories of Herodotus, which attribute the invention of gold coinage to the kingdom of Lydia in what is now western Turkey. ‘The Lydians were the first people we know of,’ Herodotus writes in the first book of the Histories, with a ...

Flower or Fungus?

Barbara Graziosi: Bacchylides, 31 July 2008

Bacchylides: Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition 
by David Fearn.
Oxford, 428 pp., £70, July 2007, 978 0 19 921550 8
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... of Bacchylides’ Ode to Alexander of Macedon (an ancestor of Alexander the Great) by drawing on Herodotus’ Histories. When the Persians set out to annex the Greek city-states, Alexander of Macedon sided with them against the Greeks. But when he realised that the Persians were likely to lose, he swiftly hedged his bets, offering the Greeks intelligence ...

Fie On’t!

James Buchan, 23 March 1995

The Oxford Book of Money 
edited by Kevin Jackson.
Oxford, 479 pp., £17.99, February 1995, 0 19 214200 3
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... are coins) in or around Lydia at or about the end of the seventh century BC. The first book of Herodotus’ Histories appears to be about money, and that is what one would expect: Herodotus could not have travelled and enquired, could not have existed, without it. The European Middle Ages selected for their legacy from ...

Statesmanship

Colin Macleod, 21 January 1982

The Experience of Thucydides 
by Dennis Proctor.
Aris and Phillips, 264 pp., £15, May 1980, 0 85668 153 9
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... to such tales. It also helps if one remembers that Thucydides is the follower and rival of Herodotus and Homer, not just a political commentator on his own times. What will remain is a man of whose life and opinions we know little, and a writer who examines the horrors of war, the tangle of human motives, the glory and degradation of his own ...

Lexicons

Eric Korn, 18 June 1981

Chambers Universal Learners’ Dictionary 
Chambers, 908 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 550 10632 4Show More
Le Mot Juste 
Kogan Page/Papermac, 176 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 85038 294 7Show More
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... and ‘bon vivant’ are not used in their languages of origin, and that although Herodotus does say that Pheidippides (or Philippides) ran 150 miles to solicit Spartan help at the battle of Marathon, the relevant statistic is the 26 miles and 487 yards he is supposed to have run back to Athens to announce ...

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