Shaping the Geography of Empire Man and Nature in Herodotus' Histories

  • ISBN13:


  • ISBN10:


  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2018-08-07
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Purchase Benefits
  • Free Shipping On Orders Over $35!
    Your order must be $35 or more to qualify for free economy shipping. Bulk sales, PO's, Marketplace items, eBooks and apparel do not qualify for this offer.
  • Get Rewarded for Ordering Your Textbooks! Enroll Now
List Price: $112.00 Save up to $3.36
  • Buy New
    Add to Cart Free Shipping


Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

  • The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.


This volume explores the spatial framework of Herodotus' Histories, the Greek historian's account of Persian imperialism in the sixth and fifth century BC and its culmination in a series of grand expeditions against Greece itself. Focusing on his presentation of the natural world through careful geographical descriptions, ranging from continents and river and mountain networks on a vast scale down to the local settings for individual episodes, it also examines how these landscapes are charged with greater depth and resonance through Herodotus' use of mythological associations and spatial parallels. Man's interaction with, and alteration of, the physical world of the Histories adds another critical dimension to the meaning given to space in Herodotus' work, as his subjects' own agency serves to transform their geography from a neutral backdrop into a resonant landscape with its own role to play in the narrative, in turn reinforcing the placing of the protagonists along a spectrum of positive or negative characterizations. The Persian imperial bid may thus be seen as a war on nature, no less than on their intended subjects: however, as Herodotus reflects, Greece itself is waiting in the wings with the potential to be no less abusive an imperial power.

Although the multi-vocal nature of the narrative complicates whether we can identify a 'Herodotean' world at all, still less one in which moral judgements are consistently cast, the fluid and complex web of spatial relationships revealed in discussion nevertheless allows focalization to be brought productively into play, demonstrating how the world of the Histories may be viewed from multiple perspectives. What emerges from the multiple worlds and world-views that Herodotus creates in his narrative is the mutability of fortune that allows successive imperial powers to dominate: as the exercise of political power is manifested both metaphorically and literally through control over the natural world, the map of imperial geography is constantly in flux.

Author Biography

Katherine Clarke, Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and Associate Professor in Ancient History, University of Oxford

Katherine Clarke undertook her BA in Classics (Literae Humaniores) at St John's College, Oxford, before going on to obtain her D.Phil. in Ancient History also at Oxford in 1996, where she held a Graduate Scholarship followed by a Junior Research Fellowship, both at Christ Church. In 1998 she was appointed to the Tutorial Fellowship in Ancient History at St Hilda's College, where she has remained ever since. She was the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize for the period 2001-3 and has held various positions of responsibility in both her College and the university's Faculty of Classics including Vice Principal in College, 2013-16, and Chair of the Sub-Faculty, 2015-17.

Table of Contents

I. Reading Herodotus in Context
1. . . . there was no Herodotus before Herodotus'
1.a. Treading in the footsteps of giants
1.b. Finding space in the study of Herodotus
1.b.i. Herodotus' spaces, peoples, and places: the scholarly landscape
1.b.ii. Sharpening the lens: bringing focalization into play
1.c. Location, location, location: Herodotus' world and the dynamics of empire
II. Herodotus' Sense of Place and Space
2. Mapping out the World
2.a. Mapping the extremes
2.b. Filling in the broad canvas: continents and comparisons
2.c. Marching through the landscape: the geography of expeditions
2.d. Trade, tourism, and theoria
2.e. The evocative list
3. Lines and Dots
3.a. Criss-crossing the narrative: rivers and the articulation of space
3.b. Fonts of rivers, spines of the land: mountains in Herodotus' landscape
3.c. Islands
3.c.i. The specialness of being nesiotes
3.c.ii. Transformation and migration
3.c.iii. The island as a commodity
III. Giving Meaning to Space
4. Depth and Resonance
4.a. Wonderful world: works of nature, works of man
4.b. The dimension of time: unlocking the mythical landscape
4.c. Collapsing spaces, parallel places
5. Geographical Morality
5.a. Good and bad control: modulating the moral landscape
5.b. Negotiating the rivers, moral barometers
5.b.i. Walking on water: sailing over land
5.b.ii. Bridging rivers, bridging continents: crossing the great divide
5.b.iii. Reaching the Promised Land: entering the Gardens of Midas
IV. Grand Designs
6. The Conquest of Nature: Herodotus' 'Military Narrative'
6.a. The allure of beauty and the language of desire
6.b. The metaphor of conquest: slavery, rage, punishment, and subjugation
6.c. Nature joins battle: opposition and alliance
6.d. (Mis)understanding the divine
7. Writing an Imperial Geography
7.a. Determining nature's will: stability or mobility
7.b. Thinking big: imperial designs and the problem of hybris
7.c. Passion for power: a Persian paradigm?
7.d. Herodotus and the geography of dynamis
Subject Index
Index of Passages Discussed

Rewards Program

Write a Review