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Travels with Herodotus
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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Nov 14, 2009 05:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is a thread to discuss the book by Ryszard Kapuscinski titled Travels with Herodotus. During the My Early Life by Winston S. Churchill discussion, we opened up threads related to other works by Churchill or about him. Since we are focusing on Herodotus at this time, we would be happy to open up threads devoted to any single book which deals in some way with Herodotus or his work.

Those of you who have some extra time might want to dig into some of the supplementary works which discuss some aspect of Herodotus.

This thread will discuss Kapuscinki's work. The description of this work on the back cover states as follows:

From renowned journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski comes this intimate account of his years in the field, traveling for the first time beyond the Iron Curtain to India, China, Ethiopia, and other exotic locales.

In the 1950s, Kapuscinski finished university in Poland and became a foreign correspondent, hoping to go abroad - perhaps to Czechoslovakia. Instead, he was sent to India-- the first stop on a decades -long tour of the world that took him from Iran to El Salvador, from Angola to Armenia. Revisiting his memories of traveling the globe with a copy of Herodotus's The Histories in tow, Kapuscinski describes his awakening to the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of new environments, and how the words of the Greek historiographer helped shape his own view of an increasingly globalized world. Written with supreme eloquence and a constant eye to the global undercurrents that have shaped the last half century. Travels with Herodotus is an exceptional chronicle of one man's journey across continents.


This is not a no spoiler thread nor a supplemental thread; this is simply a thread which can discuss any aspect of this book which deals with a person who had a special connection with our featured selection.

Bentley

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński Ryszard Kapuściński


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 10, 2008 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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When I was in the Barnes and Noble store, I do not what possessed me but I had to get this little book. I say that I do not know what possessed me because I am already grappeling with The Histories, The Teaching Company Course, the Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (you get the picture).

However, I think it will be an interesting read. I had noticed first the three quotes which are the book's epigrams and I have to say that I think this is what sold me.

Here they are:

"I am like one of those old books that ends up moldering for lack of having been read. There's nothing to do but spin out the thread of memory and, from time to time, wipe away the dust building up there."

-Seneca


For me, the above quote was magnificent, how many times do we wipe away the cobwebs and reinvent ourselves with some different way of doing something or some new experience which maybe puts fear in us. I loved that quote. "spin out the thread of memory" ....I guess telling one's story or talking about life's events or even thinking about good times, etc. or memorable moments.

The next quote was very simple and powerful.

"All memory is present."

- Novalis


Isn't that magnificent?

The third and final epigram was:

"We are, all of us, pilgrims who struggle along different paths toward the same destination."

- Antoine De Saint Exupery


A sobering thought when we think we do not have time for the things that should matter most and taking care of ourselves.

Can't wait to read this book.

Bentley







message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

This book sounds fantastic! I had to laugh though, when you described your struggle. I was as B & N myself today and bought The Idiot's Guide to Mythology, Bullfinch's Mythology and Edith Hamilton's Mythology, luckily all in paperback! I would have gotten the Theogony if I could have found it. The Histories are slow going as it is and I don't know when I'll get around to reading these books but somehow it feels good to know that they're there if and when I need them. Sigh... and now there's another book I can't live without!


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

BTW, Faulkner must have read Seneca. He said the past is never past which sounds a lot like "all memory is present" to me. Then he said that in life we're all on a steeplechase to nowhere which sounds sort of like Exupery's quote!


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Response to 3 and 4:

I think it will be fantastic..you understand my pain (smile)...I feel the same way when reading; I want to dig beneath the surface to understand the background and the intent.

Hmmm, the past is never past. That does sound like a take on Seneca. Interesting isn't it.

You certainly will be the "go to" person on mythology in this group with all of these references.

Bentley


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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POTENTIAL SPOILERS:

INTERESTING ARTICLE ON KAPUSCINSKI: (OBIT)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/...

FELLOW TRAVELERS: (TIME MAGAZINE ARTICLE ABOUT K)

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/art...

Some very interesting quotes by Kapuscinki related to Herodotus are as follows:

From Herodotus, Kapuscinski says he learned that "each culture requires acceptance and understanding, and that to understand it one must first come to know it."

"As I immersed myself increasingly in Herodotus' book, I identified more and more, emotionally and cognitively, with the world and events that he recalls," writes Kapuscinski. "I felt more deeply about the destruction of Athens than about the latest military coup in the Sudan, and the sinking of the Persian fleet struck me as more tragic than yet another mutiny of troops in Congo." But Herodotus does more than report — he also imparts a lesson that modern-day rulers should heed. "Whoever first starts a war," warns Kapuscinski, "in Herodotus' opinion commits a crime [and] will be revenged upon and punished, be it immediately or after the passage of time."

" The Histories, concludes Kapuscinski, is an "expression of man's struggle against time, against the fragility of memory ... If he doesn't write down what he has learned and experienced, that which he carries within him will perish when he does."

I was quite consciously trying to learn the art of reportage, and Herodotus struck me as a valuable teacher."

Herodotus was one of the first classical writers to leave the comfort of the agora, Kapuscinski says, and thus should be viewed "as a visionary on a world scale, an imagination capable of encompassing planetary dimensions — in short, as the first globalist."

WHEN THERE IS TALK OF 1945 (SOBERING ARTICLE BY K):

http://www.granta.com/Magazine/88/Whe...

HERODOTUS AND THE ART OF NOTICING BY K: (GOOD ARTICLE)

http://www.lettre-ulysses-award.org/i...

ABOUT K:

http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/web/ar...

INTERESTING WRITEUP ON FILM:

http://www.kapuscinskithemovie.com/

I look forward to tackling this powerfully small book.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

So true, the struggle against time.


message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 11, 2008 07:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
POTENTIAL SPOILERS:

In Crossing the Border, the first chapter of the book, the author describes suspicion and censorship and the atmosphere in Warsaw. I think he is trying to make the connection that like Herodotus that once you cross a border into a new land that you become the foreigner or (the barbarian). He says, "I wondered what one experiences when one crosses the border. What does one feel? What does one think? It must be a moment of great emotion, agitation, tension. What is it like on the other side? It must certainly be -different. But what does different mean? What does it look like? What does it resemble? Maybe it represents nothing that I know, and thus is inconceivable, unimaginable? And so my greatest desire, which gave me no peace, which tormented and tantalized me, was actually quite modest: I wanted one thing only - the moment, the act, the simple act of crossing the border. To cross it and come right back- that I thought, would be entirely sufficient, would satisfy my quite inexplicable yet acute psychological hunger."

I thought this was amazing considering how we take for granted our abilities and our right to travel and to see new lands. But this was a different time for K and Poland.

I found one sentence noteworthy: "I needed that, because I was flying west and had been taught to fear the West like fire." K had a confrontation with East and West of sorts. I liked the passage about opposites: "One did not have to carry one's passport around- one could see at a distance who was from which side of the Iron Curtain." It was interesting how uncomfortable K felt within even though he had changed his outer appearance; something deep within him felt like an alien and somehow he still felt that he had a mark on him like a "foreign particle"

Interesting story and chapter.

Bentley


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm not sure if you remember Bentley, that in l972 my husband and I took the train from Athens to Paris. We'd traveled all over Europe with not a care. When we got to the Yugoslav border the soldiers entered our cabin and asked everyone what was our nationality. UK, said one man and the soldier nodded, New Zealand, nod, Greece, nod. When we said US, the soldiers asked for our passports and we did not see them again for over a day, until we were at the border. We had realized that we were behind "the Iron Curtain" but being singled out that way was a shock.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

BTW, when thinking of people as "the other" it's difficult to fathom that the wonderful "Yugoslavs"we met might have been bitter enemies i.e. Bosnians, Serbs, Montengrans, etc. They were all just nice people then.

It's a little like looking at the old map of Anatolia. So many tribes and kingdoms and now it's just Turkey. Or perhaps I'm just not aware of the divisions that still exist there today?


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Response to message 9:

I remember that story; well then you were the ones who felt like the foreign particles at that point.

Anatolia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatolia

I am sure that there are many different groups still there today.

Bentley


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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I am also thinking that maybe crossing the border..could also mean making a move in life; taking a chance, It seems to me that this chance to leave Poland and go to India was "the turning point" for him; it transformed his life in many ways and opened up new vistas and really was a new beginning and a new world for K.

Bentley


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Like "crossing the Rubicon".


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll look it up but I thought it meant there was no turning back. The turning point. I'll check it out now.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 13, 2008 07:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Folks, it does mean no turning back (crossing the Rubicon). I do not think I meant that about crossing the border when I was reading TWH; I thought this was a turning point for him; and in some ways I can see your point Vanessa that maybe after accomplishing this goal; that for K there was no turning back; the crossing of the border had changed him.

Oldesq, I was indicating that crossing the border for K was the turning point really in his life; it opened up a whole new world for him.

Bentley


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 13, 2008 09:37PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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CONDEMNED TO INDIA

POTENTIAL SPOILERS:

"On his flight to India, K opens up for the first time his translation of The Histories. The translator of his edition was Seweryn Hammer. K tells us that Herodotus was born in 485 B.C.E. in Halicarnassas. a port city in Asia Minor. Around 450 he moved to Athens, and from there, several years later, to the Greek colony of Thurii, in southern Italy. He died around 425 B.C.E. He traveled extensively during his life. And he left us a book -- one can assume it is the only one he wrote."

K said, "Hammer tried to bring to life a man who lived two and a half thousand years ago, about whom we know little, and whose appearance is difficult to imagine. Even the one thing he left behind was, in its original version, accessible to only a handful of specialists who, in addition to possessing a knowledge of ancient Greek, had to know how to decipher a very specific kind of notation: the text looked like one unending, undifferentiated word stretching across dozens of rolls of papyrus. "Individual words or sentences were not demarcated," wrote Hammer, "just as chapters and books were unknown; the text was as densely woven as a tapestry." Herodotus concealed himself behind this verbal fabric as behind a screen, which we are even less well equipped to penetrate than his contemporaries were."

In the next paragraph, it seems strange by K is pondering "infinity". His world had opened up and now it seemed to him that he had been flying forever.

Later in the chapter, K pondered language and realized that he felt like a fish out of water. He started to think about how Herodotus wandering the world, had dealt with foreign languages. Hammer writes that Herodotus knew only Greek, but because Greeks at the time were scattered over the entire planet, had their colonies, ports and factories everywhere, the author of The Histories could avail himself of help offered by the countrymen he encountered, who served as his translators and guides. Moreover, Greek was the lingua franca of those days, and many people in Europe, Asia and Africa spoke the language, which was later replaced by Latin, and then French and English.



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POTENTIAL SPOILER:

K described a barefoot Indian man who brought him tea and biscuits:

I liked the way he described this man..."There was such a natural politeness in his manner, such profound tactfulness, something so astonishingly delicate and dignified. that I felt instant admiration and respect for him. "


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 13, 2008 10:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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THE TRAIN STATION AND THE PALACE

POTENTIAL SPOILER

What I found interesting was K's description of the Indian way of life. First, he had no idea that in addition to his ticket he had to bring his own mattress on the train!

Then he noticed all of the self-imposed assignments (Indian way of life):

"I had noticed already that a different person is assigned here to every type of activity and chore, and that this person vigilantly guards his role and his place--this society's equilibrium seems to depend upon it. One person brings tea in the morning, another shines shoes, another still launders shirts, and altogether different one cleans the room--and so on ad infinitum. Heaven forbid that I ask the person who irons my shirt to sew a button on it. For me, of course, raised as I was in the manner foregoingly described, it would be simple just to sew on the buttom myself, but then I would be committing a terrible error, for I would be depriving someone burdened with a large family and obliged to make his living by sewing buttons on shirts of his livelihood. This society was a pedantically, meticulously woven fabric of roles and assignments, classifications and purposes, and a great deal of experience, a profound knowledge and a keen intuition were required to penetrate and decipher the delicacies of its structure."

It was odd to me how K thought now that his world was infinite and that India was "all about infinity". "An infinity of gods and myths, beliefs and languages, races and cultures...dizzying endlessness."

K wondered if Herodotus had ever gotten to India. He said the following: "He did describe twenty provinces, called satrapies, of what was then the greatest power on earth. Persia and India was the most populous of those Indians..are by far the most numerous people in the known world, he asserts, and then talks of India, its location, society and customs. What H supposedly said about the Indians probably is not something I care to print here (lol).

K describes the time period that he is leaving India and Afghanistan as December 1956.



message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 13, 2008 10:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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RABI SINGS THE UPANISHADS

POTENTIAL SPOILER

It was interesting was K said about this: "The Upanishads are philosophical songs dating back three thousand years, but still vibrant, still present in India's spiritual life. When I realized this, and thought about the small boy greeting the morning star with stanzas from the Upanishads, I doubted whether I could ever comprehend a country in which children start the day singing verses of philosophy."

K also seemed to take comfort having H with him in India: "he (Herodotus) seemed a man kindly disposed toward others and curious about the world. Someone who always had many questions and was ready to wander thousands of kilometers to find an answer to any one of them."

K stated that we know little about Herodotus' life and that even the facts we do know are not entirely reliable. K states that like other great men of this epoch - Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles--that we know next to nothing about them. K wanted to know if it was not customary and was childhood considered irrelevant. He seemed to think that if H came from Halicarnassas that he must have a good heart, an open mind, a healthy body and a consistently cheerful disposition. I cannot understand how he comes to this conclusion. His criteria is that Halicarnassas lies above a calm bay shaped like an amphitheater, in a beautiful part of the world, where the western shore of Asia meets the Mediterranean Sea and it is sunny, warm, light and full of olive trees and vineyards.



message 20: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 13, 2008 11:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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RABI CONTINUED:

K notes again that H was born between 490 and 480 BCE, perhaps in 485. He states that Buddha departed for the other world and that in the Lu principality, Confucius dies. He said that Plato would be born 50 years later. Asia is the center of the world; even insofar as the Greeks are concerned, the most creative members of their society- the Ionians- also live in Asia. There is no Europe yet; it exists as myth only, in the name of a beautiful girl, Europe, daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor, whom Zeus transformed into a white bull, will carry off to Crete to have his way with her.

K goes on to point out that Halicarnassas was a Greek colony on land subject to the Persians, with a non-Greek native population - the Carians. His father was called Lyxes, which is not a Greek name, so perhaps he was a Carian. It was his mother who most probably was Greek. K believes that Herodotus was therefore Greek Carian, an ethnic half-breed. K stated that such people who grow up amid different cultures, as a blend of different bloodlines have their worldview determined by such concepts as border, distance, difference, diversity,

K states that we know that H had an uncle named Panyassis and that he was the author of various poems and epics. K states that we know that H got embroiled in politics as a young man because of his father and uncle who revolted against the tyrant of Halicarnassas, Lygdamis. The tyrant succeeds in suppressing the rebellion and the mutineers have to take refuge on Samos which is a mountainous island 2 days rowing to the NE. And H has to spend years there.

K states that in the middle of the fifth century BCE, Herodotus arrives in Athens and the ship reaches the Athenian port of Piraeus. Athens was a world metropolis, the most important city on the planet. K states that H is provincial, a non-Athenian, and thus something of a foreigner, and while such individuals are treated better than slaves, they are not treated as well as native Athenians. Athenian society was highly sensitive to race, with a a strongly developed sense of superiority, exclusivity, arrogance, even (states K).

K says that he was about 30 something when he arrives at Athens and that he is open, friendly, a hail-fellow-well met. He gives lectures, etc. And he establishes important contacts with Socrates, Sophocles and Pericles.

Because of a draconian law and because both of his parents were not born in Attica, H cannot obtain Athenian citizenship. He has to leave and settles in Thurii. K states that H dies about 60.

TWH gives some interesting tidbits about Herodotus.



message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks so much! That's wonderful. So, H was a "mule".
He may have been provincial in Athens but he had a broader world view, having been born in Asia. This will give a bit of a different slant to our readings.


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Response to Oldesq:

TWH is an interesting read; it is not of the same caliber as let us say My Early Life but it is very interesting because of the research that K has done about Herodotus and the quotes he uses, etc.

A very interesting story; he even likens his time trying to get a pair of shoes with the plight of the barefooted Indians that he meets while in India. You can see that he thinks through his analogies and possibly sees himself as an Herodotus of sorts.

Bentley

Response to message 23:

Yes he was. I think because of his family background; he himself possibly perceived himself as a foreigner of sorts.





message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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POTENTIAL SPOILER:

CHAIRMAN MAO'S ONE HUNDRED FLOWERS

What is interesting about this chapter is that K ends up traveling to China and gets to visit the Great Wall. K confirms for us that the Chinese constructed it, "with interruptions, over the course of two thousand years." The Chinese commenced building it when the Buddha and Herodotus were alive and were still building it when Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Johann Sebastian Bach were at their labors in Europe."

What K states is that "the wall is variously estimated as being from three to ten thousand kilometers long. And there is not really one single Great Wall but several of them. They were built at different times, in different places and from different materials. K states "that they had one thing in common, however: the originating impulse. As soon as one dynasty came to power; it immediately set about erecting the Great Wall. The idea of a wall possessed China's rulers. If they ceased construction for a while, it was only because of a lack of means--they were right back at it the instant their finances improved."

Why did they build it?

K states that the Chinese built the Great Wall to defend against invasions by the restless and expansionist nomadic tribes of Mongolia. These tribes in great armies, hordes. legions, emerged from the Mongolian steppes, from the Altai mountains and the Gobi desert, and attacked the Chinese, constantly menacing their nation, sowing terror with the threat of slaughter and enslavement. "

However K thinks "the Chinese wasted their time building walls and should have been spending their time learning to read, acquiring a profession, cultivating new fields and breeding robust cattle. He said he felt that this is how the world's energy is wasted." Interesting viewpoint.

K goes on to point out that this wonder of the world - "is also proof of a kind of human weakness, of an aberration, of a horrifying mistake; it is evidence of a historical inability of people in this part of the planet "to communicate, to confer and jointly determine how best to deploy enormous reserves of human energy and intellect." K saw the wall as also a way for the Chinese to control what was happening internally: it was a wall but also a shield, a trap, a veil, a cage." I think K believed that the wall changed the Chinese people and how they thought and there is a wall running through every aspect of their life; the world being divided between evil and inferior (outside) and good and superior (inside).

K couldn't see since everyone was dressed the same way and had the same hair styles how one even knew their belongings. I liked this sentence: "It is proof that real differences can indeed dwell not only in large things, but in the smallest of details - in the way, for instance, that a button has been sewn on."

It was interesting that Beijing was called during K's visit the old name of Peking. K really doesn't know why he is here; he hasn't really been able to report on anything.



message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 15, 2008 11:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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POTENTIAL SPOILER:

MEMORY ALONG THE ROADWAY OF THE WORLD

K focuses on the first sentence of The Histories:

"Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnasss. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks."

K feels this passage is the "key to the entire book. He raised the question if somebody encouraged him or commissioned H to conduct these investigations. Why would someone need this intelligence is what K is asking.

K said that this passion could have been fueled by an inquiring mind and passion. K states that Herodotus was obsessed with memory, "fearful on its behalf. He felt that memory is something defective, fragile, impermanent--illusory even."

K relates that Herodotus actually heard stories from others (they have it on the word of others - their ancestors). "Later on they will be called legends and myths but the listeners who tell these stories to Herodotus believe these stories as if they are the holiest of truths and absolute reality."

In this chapter, K calls Herodotus a visionary and the first globalist.

K feels that the heart of the matter is that "Herodotus is born, grows up and just as he starts to figure out everything around him, one of his very first observations is that the world is sundered, split into East and West, and that these halves are in a state of dissension, conflict, war and H asks why. Goodness we could be asking the same question now; why do men wage war; what is their real goal?

His main question is: "Why does Greece (that is Europe) wage war with Persia (that is Asia)? Why do these two worlds - the West (Europe) and the East (Asia) fight against each other and do so to the death? Was it always this way in the past and will it always be that way in the future."

In this chapter, K mentions that the center of H's world was the Aegean Sea. And that he was the first one to discover the world's multicultural nature and the first to argue that each culture needs acceptance and understanding and that to understand you must first come to know it.

K points out that H did not know of China or Japan, Australia or Oceania , of the Americas nor western or northern Europe; his world is the Mediterranean (Near Eastern).


Source: TWH - pages 73 - 81


message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 17, 2008 10:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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POTENTIAL SPOILER


THE HAPPINESS AND UNHAPPINESS OF CROESUS

K begins this chapter with the following paragraph: "Seeking an answer to the question most important to him namely, where did the conflict between East and West originate and why does this hostility exist. Herodotus proceeds with great caution. He does not lay claim to understanding. On the contrary, he keeps to the shadows and has others do the talking. The others are, in this case, the learned Persians. These learned Persians, Herodotus says, maintain that the instigators of the worldwide East-West conflict are neither the Greeks nor the Persians but a third people, the Phoenicians, peripatetic merchants. It was they who first began the business of kidnapping women, which in turn triggered this global storm.

HERODOTUS' FIRST LAW OF HISTORY

Herodotus documented certain laws of history (K discusses all three in this chapter) The first law of history was the answer to the question: "Who first undertook criminal acts of aggression." Having this question as to precedence in mind makes it easier to negotiate the tangled and intricate twists and turns of history, to explain to ourselves what forces and events set it in motion. The defining of this principle, the awareness of it, is hugely significant, because in Herodotus's world (as well as in various societies today). the external law of revenge, the law of reprisal, of an eye for an eye, was (and remains) alive and well. Revenge is not only a right--it is a most sacred obligation. Whoever does not fulfill this charge will be cursed by his family, his clan, his society. The necessity of seeking retribution weighs not only on K, the member of the wronged tribe. The gods, too, must submit to its imperatives and so too must even personal and timeless fate.

What function does vengeance serve? Fear of it, dread in the face of its inescapability, should be enough to stop anyone from committing a dishonorable act that is damaging to another. It should function as a brake, a restraining voice of reason. If however, it turns out to be an ineffectual deterrent, and someone commits an offense, the perpetrator will be seen to have set into motion a chain of retribution that can stretch for generations for centuries even.

K goes on to say: "There is a kind of dreary fatalism in the mechanism of revenge. Something inevitable and irreversible. Misfortune suddenly falls you and you cannot fathom why. What happened? Simply this that you have been revenged upon for crimes perpetrated ten generations ago by a forefather whose existence you weren't even aware of

The above is a rather sad testament about retribution and revenge (inevitable and irreversible - amazing!) The fallout can occur generations after the perpetrator has perished!!!

Source: TWH pages 82 - 85


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, I really did not see it this way at all. First, Cyrus does not exact revenge on Croesus and don't we see him as a great man because of this? Second, I don't read the inevitabilty of retribution through fate in this way. My take on it is more like the sins of the fathers... I think, even today, we can see how an act today will have reverberations l00 years from now through our children and great-grandchildren. I don' t think of it as "justice" or "revenge" but as a kind of natural law. I see in in Freud. A person suffers an emotional problem because his father did act A, but his father did act A because HIS father did act A, and so on, through the generations.

Another angle to this, has anyone seen the Nova on epigenetics? My son is a researcher and it's the hot new thing. The idea is that if your grandfather, at age l0, went through a famine, your grandson will be more likely to have diabetes. So your behavior, today, actually can alter what will happen to your grandchildren. The narrator, at the conclusion of the show, said that the message is that we cannot be selfish and decide to smoke or drink or engage in other physically harmful behaviors and think it's ok because only we will suffer and it's our choice. If we're to have children, they will suffer as well! Ancient wisdom in cutting edge science, the way I see it.




message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

I was thinking about this all night. When I read K POV I thought it sounded as though he was looking a† Herodotus through a Christian prism. When I looked at my post I thought I was seeing Herodotus through a Freudian prism. Is it possible to see an ancient writer through anything but our own POV? The Greeks had such a different religion and society and worldview. Did they believe that the gods just threw the dice? Did they believe in a just universe? Can we really understand? Or does it matter? Maybe we read him not to understand him but to understand ourselves better and take what we need from what he wrote.




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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Vanessa stated:

Wow, I really did not see it this way at all. First, Cyrus does not exact revenge on Croesus and don't we see him as a great man because of this? Second, I don't read the inevitabilty of retribution through fate in this way. My take on it is more like the sins of the fathers... I think, even today, we can see how an act today will have reverberations l00 years from now through our children and great-grandchildren. I don' t think of it as "justice" or "revenge" but as a kind of natural law. I see in in Freud. A person suffers an emotional problem because his father did act A, but his father did act A because HIS father did act A, and so on, through the generations.

Another angle to this, has anyone seen the Nova on epigenetics? My son is a researcher and it's the hot new thing. The idea is that if your grandfather, at age l0, went through a famine, your grandson will be more likely to have diabetes. So your behavior, today, actually can alter what will happen to your grandchildren. The narrator, at the conclusion of the show, said that the message is that we cannot be selfish and decide to smoke or drink or engage in other physically harmful behaviors and think it's ok because only we will suffer and it's our choice. If we're to have children, they will suffer as well! Ancient wisdom in cutting edge science, the way I see it.


Bentley responded:

It is true about Cyrus and Croesus did admit he brought himself down. K saw it as revenge being carried on even by families like in Romeo and Juliet I guess. And that the gods got into the act as well. Freud saw emotional issues as causing further emotional issues in your offspring; I can believe that because of one's DNA and genetic makeup. K sees it as perpetuation of vindication and revenge through the ages. An interesting concept to ponder about Herodotus. There can be no question that this is what K stated: the quotes are directly from the chapter.

Epigenetics - very interesting. I actually believe you can alter your genetic makeup by what you do to your body. Not being a scientist; I cannot vouch for the science behind that statement. Obviously, your son can speak to this.




message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Response to message 30: I think they believed in both; that the Gods had their hands in it; a just universe in which hubris was punished and where being too happy was punished and an eye for an eye was understood. That revenge was a right and could be perpetrated for generations. In the eyes of the Greeks, I guess this was their just universe; but I am not sure it would be ours.

I think we can read him to understand the cultures of that time better, their motivations, the reasons behind some of the events as explained by H; then we can read it on another level and discover maybe a little bit more about ourselves and how some things have never changed and how others have changed thank goodness a great deal.

Bentley


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
K wonders if H wasn't on a fact finding mission maybe for some ruler; he raised many other possibilities too; but an interesting fact that K raised is how did H get the money to do all of this traveling; an key point. Yes, that is true too when so many other books of the same period or before are either in fragments or have disappeared. Was this manuscript in a safer place than the others. You have to wonder.

Bentley


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
POTENTIAL SPOILER:

THE HAPPINESS AND UNHAPPINESS OF CROESUS CONT'D

HERODOTUS' SECOND LAW OF HISTORY

According to K, the second law of Herodotus pertains to both history; but also to human life: "that human happiness never remains long in the same place.

K believes that the story of Croesus is very similar to the Biblical story of Job (possibly Croesus was the prototype. He was king of Lydia (an Asiatic state) situated between Greece and Persia. I guess a mistake that Croesus made was to display his great wealth to any visitor who would look. This allegedly took place several decades before H was born. (middle of the sixth century)

The capital of Lydia was Sardis and it was visited by every learned Greek. Solon was a poet, a creator of Athenian democracy and famous for his wisdom. He made his second mistake when he showed Solon and asked if he had ever seen a happier person. Solon thought that the happiest of men were some heroically fallen Athenians. Solon basically told him that human life was a matter of chance. His son Atys is killed by accident by Adastus who also kills himself.

Croesus decides to do a preemptive strike upon Cyrus (king of Persia). He consults the oracle who comes back with the message: "If you set out against the Persians, you will destroy a great state." Croesus was blinded to everything (K calls it the lust of aggression) and thinks well Persia is a great state so I will win.

Croesus loses, annihilates his own great state and becomes enslaved. Cyrus saves him and allegely Apollo brought the rain which puts out the fire. Croesus is saved. Cyrus wants to know why Croesus did what he did and chose war over being his friend. He wanted to know who persuaded him. Croesus replies: "It was my doing." But then he states that it was the Greek gods...so much for honesty. He then commits so called sacrilege against the Gods and sends a delegation of Lydians to Delphi to ask if Greek gods were usually so ungrateful (now if the Gods did have power that act of dipomacy should have really persuaded them to help Croesus).

The reply from the Delphic Pythia constitutes the final and third law.

HERODOTUS' THIRD LAW OF HISTORY:

"Not even a god can escape his ordained fate. Croesus has paid for the crime of his ancestor four generations ago, who, though a member of the personal guard of the Heraclidae, gave in to a woman's guile, killed his master, and assumed a station which was not rightfully his at all. In fact, Apollo wanted the fall of Sardis to happen in the time of Croesus' sons rather than of Croesus himself, but it was not possible to divert the Fates.

At that point, Croesus knew that the fault was all his and not the Gods.

So here at the beginning of The Histories, Herodotus does not waste any time identifying his three basic tenets. I think that K's explanations in Travels with Herodotus are good and simple to understand.

Source: TWH 82-89


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

response to 33

Can't remember where but I did read somewhere that he did get paid for reading this book aloud. They said that is why he starts off with all of the abductions, sex sells.


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I read an hypothesis that he could have done that for money; but I haven't read anything conclusive about him frankly.

And why is this book saved in its entirety when so many others of that period are in fragments or have vanished.

I also wonder how he made the money for his travels.

Most times when I read a book or work, I first try to find out a bit about the author and his frame of reference and about his life and if it is a work for a particular audience; who is that audience and what did the author try to achieve. Honestly, in this work we almost have to rely on the first sentence of the work for his purpose; but we do not have a lot to go on about him personally.

Bentley


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, good questions. I assumed that he was following in the footsteps of the bards and the "loggoi" who did similar work.
I think Elizabeth Vandiver discusses this a bit at the beginning of the TC tapes.

Maybe a scroll or two will turn up in a cave some day to answer the questions.


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Thx. I have so much that I am reading simultaneously on Herodotus that I have to go back and review my Vandiver.

A scroll or two would help I guess. I wonder if some of the saved manuscripts were buried in some well sealed tomb of a king and that is why some seemed to have survived where others are lost forever.

I guess we could study this forever.

Bentley


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

But as phoenetic writing was introduced I imagine there was more than one copy made. The library of Alexandria had a copy of every book ever written. I think less than l0% survived the fire and that's what we have.


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
A shame. I would imagine that to be the case as well; but why some survived and others did not still seems strange. Maybe some of these that survived were in fact elsewhere (in other esteemed personal collections).

I guess we can thank Julius Caesar for this among other things.

Bentley


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Message to Oldesq:

K asks the same questions as do you and I. I am not sure that it was with the general audience in mind or a specific paid audience who paid for him to do this research in advance.

He could have written it solely for the purpose of his posterity so that he would not be forgotten. In his memory.

Bentley


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Herodotus lived in Athens for a while. There was a very strong intellectual ambience both there and in Ionia. Every assumption was being examined. I was surprised to learn that the Ionians were actually transplanted Athenians. The spirit of inquiry was very strong, in all fields. Understanding the world, learning, it's what we do, isn't it?

Politics was THE subject. There were so many ideas floating around, literally, as they were seafaring and trading people. They had to try to process all of these different ideas and peoples, just as we do today. I can't remember if the Peloponesian War had begun yet, I'll have to check, but I'm sure he saw it coming. I think he wanted to inform the public, to warn them the way pundits do today. I think of Greece at his time as the US after WWII, riding high. A people can become complacent (hubristic?) How he got the money and backing to do this, I have no idea but somehow Socrates was supported, Plato traveled the world, there must have been backers. It is an interesting question, but as with so much from the ancient past we really can't be sure.




message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Hope my short term memory holds up, I should have written this down.

First Peloponesian war-460

Herodotus The Histories 440

Second Peloponesian War 431

I wonder if he was trying to remind the Greeks of who they were. They were unified by the fight with Persia. They should not fight each other. Sparta, especially. The 300 were Spartans. They saved the day for Athens. Wouldn't this be a strong message to unify the Greeks?


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

I'd love to read that book! I actually know a relative of Oppenheimer, but that's not why. I love the idea of the "ivory tower" but yes, you are so right about the downside.

I met someone on line who grew up near Los Alamos and mentioned exactly what you're describing. What a strange way to grow up, in the middle of the desert!


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

But wait, that's not Athens! I think of Athens more like New York, the crossroads and center of the world.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, I understood what you meant. What I was trying to say was that the diversity isn't there in Los Alamos. There must have been a very insular, isolated intensity to the intellectual energy. I think something different happens when so many different people, from different places and walks of life, converge. As you say, they had a singular purpose.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

BTW, I have to say that this exchange of ideas from people all over the world, right here on the net, provides a similar stimulation.
I think the discussion has prodded me to look so much deeper and to question my assumptions.

For instance, I really hadn't thought much about his "purpose". But that is so key. I think I understand it now and that puts the entire book into context.

I was just listening to a tape on Aristotle and it was all about "purpose", that we must always look for the purpose. Another coincidence.

Then I re-listened to the TC tape. Vandiver says that they think H had to leave town and travel because he'd participated in a revolt against a tyrant. That would certainly color his POV, wouldn't it? Plato had to leave Athens for l2 years after Socrates was killed as he was warned they might go after him next. So these journeys might have really been exiles.


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Response to message 44 (Vanessa):

Great info Vanessa. I agree with your assessments of hubris. I would love to know who these backers were and what they gained from all of this; maybe the first lobbyists.

I was surprised about the Ionians being transplanted Athenians.


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Response to message 46 (Oldesq)..that is fascinating. Maybe we should open up another private book club to read all of the Pulitzers or all of the Man Booker Prize books. I also would love to read that book; fascinating tidbit. Sort of scary though I have to agree.

Bentley


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Response to Oldesq and Vanessa:

I think I agree with the insularity of the environment creating these world changing inventions (bombs); that is what scares me. Yes, what happens is that the project and the ideas are tempered by other kinds of thinking or other points of view. Obviously not found at Los Alamos. More of a think tank environment (a secret one at that)

Bentley


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm chuckling...lobbyists!


message 49: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 18, 2008 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Response to Vanessa (message 51): Yes, I heard that too. I also pointed that out in the posts elsewhere; in fact it stated somewhere that other members of his family were involved as well. The uprising was unsuccessful and he was banned. He finally ended up in Thurii which was supposed to be a vital city and quite opulent. Not that it was as opulent when Herodotus was there.

I don't think though that his other wanderings and travels had anything to do with the problem he had with Lydgamis who some say had H's uncle killed. At first, he was exiled to Samos.


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Response to Vanessa (55):

Yes, I was joking but who knows (smile).


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