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« Are we ready for our close-up? | Main | What went wrong »

Apr 27, 2008

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David Wharton

Thanks for the link. I don't think I ever got more pleasure from an undergrad course than I did poring over Herodotus in second-semester Greek with a few students and our brilliant professor, the late John Crosset.

Mendelsohn's review of the Landmark Herodotus was quite good, though I thought that last two paragraphs were pretty tendentious. Herodotus the ur-Postmodernist? That belies Herodotus's Ionian commitment to true discovery that Mendelsohn acknowledges earlier in the review.

The George H.W. Bush:Darius::George W. Bush:Xerxes comparison really doesn't comport well with what Herodotus tells us in the Histories about the ancient father/son duo. But with M's larger point -- that great and powerful nations can come to grief at the hands of smaller ones because of hubris or foolhardiness -- no argument with that. Good thing they still teach Herodotus at the service academies.

Oddly, Mendelsohn leaves out almost all mention of Herodotus's sincere and frank belief in the activity of the gods in human affairs. Herodotus attributes the ruin of Croesus to the phthonos (envy, jealousy, or begrudging) of the gods, and he shows them constantly active though dreams, omens, oracles, and events in the Histories. Maybe this element of Herodotus's worldview didn't jibe with Mendelsohn's desire to resuscitate H's reputation among academic PoMo ironists.

Ed Cone

Perhaps Mendelsohn views the stories of activist, anthropomorphic gods as similar to the mythologies he does mention in the article (e.g. the wild tales about peoples and places that Herodotus also advanced with such earnestness) -- artifacts of another time that seem risible to a reader with modern knowledge and expectations, but that do not compromise the larger value of the work.

I look forward to getting a copy of the Landmark Herodotus.

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