Herodotus: The Father of History : The Great Courses: Western Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver
  • Series: The Great Courses: Western Literature
  • 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Witness the "works and wonders" of the ancient world through the eyes of its first great historian in this sparkling series of 24 lectures from a much-honored teacher and classical scholar.
Herodotus (c. 484-420 B.C.E.) was a Greek who was born in what is now the modern Turkish resort town of Bodrum and who died, so tradition says, in the south of Italy. In between, his tirelessly inquiring mind took him from one corner of the known world to another. And he reported on or visited all of its continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa) to write about the vast array of subjects that captured his interest. These included the "great works" of the ancient land of Egypt; the remarkable kings who built the vast Persian Empire; and the strange customs and unlikely origins of the Scythians, a warlike, mounted people who lived beyond the Danube and whose repulse of Darius and the Persians in 513 B.C.E. made them the first Europeans to throw back an eastern invasion.
The book that emerged from these "inquiries" - The Histories - is Herodotus's only known work, yet it still made Herodotus one of the rare, landmark figures in the story of thought. In these lectures, Professor Vandiver introduces you to Herodotus and The Histories, tracing the influences he assimilated and the new methods he used in crafting this monumental work. You learn how that work looked at the past in new and fresh ways, seeing it not as a distant recess shrouded in legend and rumor, but as something that lies close at hand; as something that immediately affects the here and now, and as a subject whose great personalities and patterns of events can be studied in order to make the reasons behind them as clear as possible.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Really Loved It

I thought this was completely informative and enjoyable. It does what courses like this do best by taking a topic you know a little bit about and just expanding it. At first, I was skeptical about the Professor but I was wrong. She was knowledgeable and easy to follow. But she also seemed to just genuinely enjoy the topic and have a lot of affection for Herodotus (as odd as that sounds by the end I did too), which really makes you get into it.

The Histories really were an amazing achievement from a person who seemed to be maybe naive maybe intentionally deceptive but, regardless, endlessly curious and inquisitive about just everything. Not just the wars but culture, religion, science. And the Professor conveys that along with conveying facts.

It obviously seems like a narrow and niche topic to pick up. But I really think it is worth it. It really covers a lot about the history of history and of the time. The Professor talks about how Herodotus influences others (even as they were disdainful of him) but I think that has never been more relevant. She doesn't get into it but at this point there is an "oral history" on every topic imaginable floating around. Some are considered classics (Please Kill Me, Live From New York and most of Studs Terkel). And some aren't. But the idea of learning about a topic and a place in time by just talking to a bunch of people and relating what they say word for word even if one contradicts the other has definitely come back into vogue in a very big way. That approach has a lot of flaws when it comes to relating facts and dates (so traditional history is of course important) but it often captures the mood, the feelings, the idea of a place (the real truth) in a way relating the facts can't. And, in that sense, Herodotus has truly never been more relevant.
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- Betsy

Utterly Fantastic!

I am a great fan of The Great Courses series and have built up quite a library. Listening to these great professors, experts and masters in their field, is for me a great investment of time. I find it difficult listening to anything else as I excercise, or go about my chores.
These lectures by Herodotian scholar, Professor Vandiver are my favorite. The Professor is an excellent orator and is passionate about her subject. Two ingredients that I believe, make for a great professor. This is my second time listening to the course and I intend to revisit it again. I definitely recommend this course to anyone interested in Herodotus and Greek - Persian history.
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- julio santiago

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses