Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reading Herodotus

Today I am reading this epic tome:

a gorgeous edition of Herodotus's Histories, given to me by a friend. Before I started, though, I decided to look up what is meant by 'Ring Composition' and found this very interesting paper by Gary D Martin devoted to Ring Composition in Herodotus's work.

It seems to be somewhere between poetry and prose, where an idea is introduced, which leads to another and another, eventually reaching the main point which may be reiterated in two or more lines, before working backwards again. Since the Histories were based on oral accounts it is derived from a method of both committing such points to memory and lending emphasis.

This edition of the Histories is generously illustrated with maps and pictures which really helps with my understanding, because I am ignorant not only of most aspects of classical history, but the general geography of the area too.


Blogger Peter Household said...

Have you come across this passage yet?

I understand Herodotus described how a Phoenician expedition circumnavigated Africa, or Libya as he called it, departing from the bottom of the Red Sea and returning through the Pillars of Hercules. He met the crew it seems, and reported their story. They told him amongst other things that when they were sailing west the sun rose and set in the wrong direction. Herodotus reports this fact whilst commenting “I do not believe them”.

A true seeker after knowledge! He didn’t believe them, but passed the account on anyway. It is in fact precisely this detail which convinces us that the story is true. Sailing west – this is when they were rounding the Cape of Good Hope. The sun rose and set in the wrong direction – this is exactly what happens when you are south of the equator, a concept that was clearly foreign to Herodotus, hence his disbelief.

Tue Apr 19, 08:22:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes! This is close to the bit that really interests me, in book 3. I hadn't really understood it though - but the way you put it , I do! So thank you.

I like the passages on the natives of India. In fact I like lots of the passages. They are unexpectedly hilarious.

Tue Apr 19, 10:37:00 pm  

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