Herodotus and Me

March 2, 2014 at 6:10 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

On Wednesday one of my book clubbers emailed me about my reading status.  How far along was I in preparation for our discussion for Monday (now tomorrow).

We will be discussing The Histories by Herdotus.

When he emailed me I was only on Book 3 (out of 9), roughly 200 pages into the historian’s account (out of 953).

I sat down, promising myself I wouldn’t go to bed until I had complete Book 4…

I had to stop myself after completing Book 6.

It is not going to be difficult to finish this book by Monday.  Now, Sunday afternoon, I’m to Book 9 and I didn’t read anything at all yesterday.  You would expect Herodotus to be dry and boring, another clubber said it was like reading the bible.  My best friend read the reblog of the North Africa post and said, “I WISH that sounded interesting to me.”

The fact that it doesn’t astounds me.

Ancient History fascinates me  I’m riveted.  Hooked.  I want to know everything.  So much that when I stopped to take a bath I took The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides with me.  The book and the historian are mentioned tirelessly in the footnotes of the Landmark Herodotus and is chronologically next in line (and Landmark Herodotus isn’t bath tub friendly).  I’m looking forward to him… then Xenophon.

Wednesday and Thursday alone, I read through most of King Darius I’s reign.  I learned a long forgotten word from some government or history class long passed – oligarchy – and contemplated the reality of governments.

I also did a bit of research on Parnassus and enjoyed pulling my Oxford English Dictionary down to inspect with my handy-dandy turtle magnifying class, and I felt quite studious.  These are the things that bring me joy.



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Herodotus Notes Continued

February 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm (Education) (, , , , , , )

Session Two – in which I sat outside in the beautiful Sunday outdoors of a Valentine weekend, drank my coffee, and devoured some history while the kiddo painted.  Like so,


Yes, she paints with TWO hands, and doesn’t even have to look at the canvas, she is that awesome.  Also, I have x-ray vision and can read through the book boards.  Not really, I just really like the front cover of the Histories edition I’m reading from.

Today, while I was reading, I got caught up in a bit about the sacred animals of Egypt.  Herodotus takes time to discuss this topic in a bullet point type fashion and very little detail.  I suppose he had so much information to relay that this was not high on his list of things to be extraordinarily well researched.  He simply mentions which ones are sacred and plods happily along with his narrative.

Except he mentions otters.

Otters were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians.

Otters are in my top ten list of favorite animals of all time.

lizzy&andi ottersHowever, most of my adoration comes from watching them for prolonged period of times at the zoo, or in sharing adorable pictures of them with my friends on facebook… like these ones on the right caught kissing.  (How adorable is that?!)  I actually know very little about otters, much less that they are native to Egypt.  I am a little bit obsessed with Ancient Egypt and consider myself a very amateur budding Egyptologist of sorts [very, very amateur who buds quite slowly].  Somehow, until now, the otters have escaped me.

The World Book Encyclopedia describes an ottter as a “fur-bearing animal that spends much of its time in the water.”  They are flesh-eaters and hopelessly cute.  Of course, I’m drawn to them – but the encyclopedia offers no explanation or even reference to the fact that the Ancient Egyptians would care.

So, of course I google it and find this.  If you’re not in a link hopping, article reading mood, I shall spare you and share only this highlighted introduction paragraph:

Four otter species occur in Africa. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) occurs only in the rivers rising in the Atlas mountains. Three species are endemic to Africa: The Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), the Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congica), and the spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis). Throughout the high rainfall regions (i.e. within the 500 mm isohyet) of sub-Saharan Africa at least one of these species, often more, can be expected to be present. Otters are absent from only six countries on the African continent: Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, and Western Sahara. With the exception of Egypt, these counties probably do not have sufficient permanent water for otters.

Absent from Egypt.  Still sacred to Ancient Egyptians.

Of course, this led me to more questions.  More googling.  (And even more plans to visit a bookstore and the library in search of answers as soon as humanly possible .)  Which led to this little gem… Otter or Mongoose?.

Despite my extensive personal library I am constantly shocked by what is not in it – and I have nothing on otters… or mongooses for that matter.

I also have nothing on Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai and she, too, though not as thoroughly as the otters, piqued my interest today.  How have I not heard of this woman?  This semi-psychotic warrior queen who is responsible for the death of Cyrus the Great.  Obviously, I need a biography on her stat.  Well, not too stat, as I’m currently in the middle of The Life of Charlotte Bronte and I’ve yet to finish a whole host of other fabulous biographies that are piled around the house.  Rest assured, however, I have taken note in my handy dandy notebook of all things Ancient History and Queen Tomyris will not be forgotten.  The wonderful thing about scholarship is that there is always more to study.  The terrible thing about scholarship is that I have to be patient with myself knowing that I can only read as much as I can read in a day and that there will always be more to read.

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Histories and Education

February 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , )

Landmark-HerodotusIn my pursuit for knowledge, and for schooling my own child, I have been pretty diligent about reading as much history as I have the mental capacity to remember.  That means I read at least one non-fiction book a month (whether history or not) and I include one non-fiction book per quarter in the Half Price Books Humble Book Club line up.

This quarter we’re planning to discuss Herodotus’ Histories in March.  (We meet the first Monday of the Month at 7:30 pm.) This isn’t just a fascinating work to read for book club, it was also on my life long list of books to read before I die.  It’s a tome; but it’s important, I think.

Not only is it important, I have a pretty awesome copy (The Landmark Herodotus) that I find completely beautiful as well as an extra ratty paperback copy for scribbling in.

So as I make my way through this book, that could serve as a book press for other books if I ever needed it to, I will share with you the gathered notes of our club members:


(Notes provided by Glenn Ray)

Book 1 CLIO

Below are the important kings and many of their exploits from book 1 ‘CLIO’. There are 9 books in all.

The ‘¶’ below is used to represent chapter #’s in this book.

A vertical line ‘|’ on a row by itself means next person down is child of this king.

NOTE: Where there is not a ¶ starting the line, then these are mostly from Wikipedia.

Below are 3 lines of kings, not all ancestral succession:

  1. Lydia (modern day western Turkey) kings: Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, Croesus

  2. Mede/Persian kings: Deioces, …Cyaxares, AstyagesCyrus the Great, … Tomyris of Massagetae (not Mede or Persian) …

  3. Darius I


(¶8 Candaules was king of Sardis & Lydia before Gyges,

& his favorite spearmen was Gyges;

Candaules shows Gyges his wife (Nyssia) naked)

(¶11,12, 13 Gyges, at Nyssia’s command, kills Candaules, becomes king; but

that vengeance for the Heracleidai (descendants of Heracles (Hercules)) will come upon the descendants of Gyges in the fifth generation [that being Croesus below].)

(Gyges reigned from 716 BC to 678 BC (or from c. 680–644 BC).)

(¶14 led an army against Miletus)



(Ardys II or Ardysus II) 678-629 BC (or 644-c.625)

(¶15 became king of Lydia; and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)



(629-617 BC (or c.625-c.600))

(¶16 became king of Lydia for 12 years; made war vs Cyaxares – king of Medes)

(¶18 and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)



king of Lydia (619–560 BC)

(capital Sardis, & controlled all Asia Minor west of the River Halys, except Lycia.)

(fought against Cyaxares – king of Media, during the Battle of Halys, /wikipedia)

(¶18 and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)

(¶25 reigned 75 years)


Croesus (pronounced ‘KREE-sus’)

(GLR: some info below is from: http://www.ancient.eu.com/croesus/)

King of Lydia 560-547 BC (palace of Croesus was at Sardis.)

(GLR: Croesus, you will see, is one mean grandpa)

(funded construction of the great Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. / http://www.ancient.eu.com/croesus/)

(¶30 asks Solon who is happiest).

(Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet)

(¶53 Croesus is also famous for asking the Oracle at Delphi whether he should go to war against Persia. And… destroy a great empire)

(¶55 Croesus consulted the Oracle & was told …a mule of the Medes shall be monarch…)

(¶69 alliance with the Lacedemonians)

(¶73 marching into Cappadokia to fight Cyrus, who to avenge his brother-in-law Astyages (who was defeated by Cyrus)

(¶79 Croesus’ horses feared the camels of Cyrus and ran.)

(¶84 Cyrus’ man Hyroiades scaled the wall of the citadel at Sardis and Croesus is defeated)

(¶86-7 Croesus in the Pyre)

(¶91 Croesus learns the mule = Cyrus)

Deïokes (or Deioces)

(In the late 8th century BC)

(¶96 – was the first king of the Medes per Herodotus.

(¶97…his decisions proved to be according to the truth)



king of Media 665 – 633 BC)

(Phraortes started wars against Assyria, but was defeated

and killed by Ashurbanipal, the king of Neo-Assyria.)


Cyaxares [or Kyaxares in Gutenberg version]

king of Media 625–585 BC)

(¶73 Scythians serve Cyaxares human meat, and Scythians runaway to Alyattes at Sardis for protection)



(king of Media 585 BC-550 BC)

(ruled in alliance with his two brothers-in-law, Croesus king of Lydia

and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, whose wife, Amytis, Astyages’ sister,

was the queen for whom Nebuchadnezzar was said to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon)

(¶108 dream abo vine from Mandane; ordered Harpagos to kill grandson [Cyrus])

(¶118, 119 Astyages serves Harpagos his own son)

(Bible xref: Daniel 13:65(1)(1)This is per the “Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition” of the Bible, note the KJV stops at chapter 12.)


¶107 Daughter – Mandane married Cambyses from Persia


Cyrus the Great,

king of Persia, 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC

(¶55, 56 & 91 Cyrus is the mule)

(Bible xref: 2 Chron 36:22-33; Ezra 1:1-8, 3:7; 4:3,5; 5:13-17, 6:3,14, Isaiah 44:28, 45:1,13; Daniel 1:21, 6:28, 10:1,

and 1 Esdras 2. [Note: Church councils rejected 1 and 2 Esdras as non-canonical])

(was the monarch under whom the Israelites Babylonian captivity ended / Wikipedia)

(was prompted by God to make a decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt / Wikipedia)

(¶79 Cyrus uses camels against Croesus’ horses (horses fear the camels and ran.)

(¶84 Cyrus’ man Hyroiades scaled the wall of the citadel at Sardis and Croesus is defeated)

(¶141 Cyrus spoke fable to the Ionians and Aiolians, piper played for the fishes in the sea)

(¶155-156 Cyrus takes on his mean grandpa Croesus [who multiple times tried killing Cyrus] as closest councilor)

(¶178-183 Cyrus plans  & does to conquer Assyria & Babylon; Describes city of Babylon)

(¶205 Cyrus attempts to conquer Massagetae & their queen Tomyris)

(¶209 Cyrus dreamed Dareios/Darius would attempt to over throw him)

(¶211, captures 1/3 of her army & son Spargapises sleeping)

(¶213 -214, After Tomyris’ son, commits suicide, she defeats & kills Cyrus & give thee thy fill of blood.)

(¶216, Massagetae custom: when a man becomes very old, he is slaughtered, flesh boiled and the family banquet upon it.)

Darius I 550–486 BC

the third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire

(Reigned 522 BC to 486 BC (36 years))

(Darius is mentioned in the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah.)

(¶187 Darius attempts to rob Babylon Queen Nitocris’ grave)

(¶199. Now the most shameful of the customs of the Babylonians…)

More notes to come as we progress through our readingXenophon. And when I’m done with Herodotus, I plan to conquer Xenophon…

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I challenge everyone to pick up any ancient history book and learn something about the world they didn’t know before this year.  The most fascinating thing to me about it all is that, even though civilizations change and grow and change and grow… people essentially, are always – at their core – pretty much the same.  I love learning about the world today through the eyes of our past.

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