The Landmark Herodotus

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-06-02
  • Publisher: Anchor

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Herodotus's only work, "The Histories," is considered the first true piece of historical writing in Western literature. Illustrated, annotated, and filled with maps, "The Landmark Herodotus" is a stunning edition of this great classical work.

Author Biography

Robert B. Strassler is an independent scholar whose articles have appeared in the Journal of Hellenic Studies. He holds an honorary doctorate of humanities and letters from Bard College and is chairman of the Aston Magna Foundation for Music and the Humanities. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Andrea L. Purvis holds a Ph.D. in classical studies from Duke University and has taught in Duke University’s department of classical studies. She is author of Singular Dedications: Founders and Innovators of Private Cults in Classical Greece and coauthor of Four Island Utopias. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

Herodotus of Halicarnassusa here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time. May the great and wonderful deeds—some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians—not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.

Persian authorities of the past claim that the Phoenicians were responsible for the dispute. This is because, after they had come to and settled the land which they still inhabit from what is now called the Erythraean Sea, they at once undertook long sea voyages and brought back cargo from Egypt, Assyria, and elsewhere, but more to the point, they came to Argos.

At this time in the land we now call Hellas, Argos surpassed other places in all things, and when the Phoenicians reached Argos they set out their cargo for sale. On the fifth or sixth day after their arrival, when they had sold almost everything, many women came down to the sea, in particular, the king’s daughter. Her name, according to what the Hellenes also say, was Io daughter of Inachos. The women were standing by the stern of the ship intent upon their purchases when the Phoenicians, inciting each other, rushed upon them. The greater part made their escape, but some were seized and carried off. Io herself was among the captives. The Phoenicians put the women on board their vessel and set sail for Egypt.

This is how Io came to Egypt according to the Persians (though the Hellenes disagree), and this was the very beginning of grievances.

They say that following these events, certain Hellenes whose names they cannot specify came to the port of Tyre, in Phoenicia, and abducted the king’s daughter Europa. These Hellenes would be Cretans. And now the score was even.

But after this, the Hellenes were responsible for a second crime. For they sailed in a warship to Aia in the territory of Colchis and on to the River Phasis. And when they had finished the business that brought them there, they abducted the king’s daughter Medea. So the Colchian king sent a messenger to Hellas to demand satisfaction for the abduction and the return of his daughter. The reply was that, since they had received no satisfaction for the abduction of Io of Argos, neither would they pay anything to them.

They say that in the generation following these events Alexandros son of Priama heard the stories and wanted to abduct a wife from Hellas for himself, quite confident that he would pay no penalty since the other side had not paid either. And so he abducted Helen. The Hellenes decided that the first thing to do was to send messengers demanding the return of Helen and satisfaction for the abduction. When they made these proposals they were charged with the abduction of Medea, and besides, they said, how could they expect satisfaction from others when they themselves had neither paid nor surrendered her upon request?

Up to this point, there had been abductions only from each other, but after this the Hellenes were largely responsible for offenses. For they began to make war on Asiaa before their enemies made war on Europe. Now the Persians think that the abduction of women is certainly an act only unjust men would perform, and yet once they have been abducted, it is senseless to make a fuss over seeking vengeance. It is the way of sensible people to have no concern for abducted women; it is quite obvious that the women would not have been abducted if they had not been compliant. The Persians claim that while they themselves, Asiatics, thought nothing of the women being abducted, the Hellenes of Sparta, for the sake of a woman, mustered a huge expedition, went to Asia, and destroyed the power of Priam. From that time on they have considered the Hellenes to be their enemies. For the Persians assume Asia and the barbarian tribes living there as their own, and anything Hellenic is separate and divergent from themselves.

The Persians clai

Excerpted from The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories by Robert B. Strassler
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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