Thursday, May 26, 2011

Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 1 -2

For the hell of it, I’m going to at least start a complete ‘translaparaphrasing’ of Herodotus’ “Histories,” two sections or so at a time, using the Loeb Classic library, the (Selincourt/Marincola) Penguin, and “Landmark” editions. This will obviously take a while; it may stall out, but what the heck. The book is long, entertaining, and blogger-fodder. On top of that, Themistocles (the blog’s namesake) stars in books VII and VIII, the books primary end being an account of the Persian Wars of 490-478 BC. So, ‘let’s do this’ Without further ado, we begin at the beginning:

Book I

Section 1 (Blame it all on men being men)

In this book, Herodotus of Halicarnassus presents the results of his historical inquiries for three reasons. First, so that the achievements and actions of the men and women involved do not become forgotten with the passage of time, secondly in order that the truly marvelous achievements of Greeks and Barbarians (The Persians) alike are given their proper glory. Thirdly, and more particularly I wish to set forth the reasons that these two people fought with each other.

Learned Persians place the ultimate blame for the quarrel on the Phoenicians. These people originally came from the so called Red Sea and soon after they had penetrated the Mediterranean and settled in the land they hold today, they became adept at, and regularly undertook long trading voyages. Loaded with Egyptian and Assyrian goods they called at many places along the coast of Greece, including a city called Argos. In those days Argos was the primary city in the land we now call Hellas.

As was usual for these Phoenicians, they displayed their wares on the beach. After about five or six days, as their stock began to dwindle, a number of women came to the beach to see what was on offer. Among the women was the King’s daughter. Greeks and Persians agree that her name was Io, daughter of Inachus. These women were occupying themselves looking at and purchasing goods, standing around the stern of the Phoenician vessel, when suddenly Phoenician sailors, after first having furtively passed word amongst themselves, rushed the women. Most of them managed to escape the clutches of the sailors; but Io and a few others were caught and quickly bundled aboard the ship. It cleared moorings at once and made off for Egypt.


This is the Persian account of how Io came to Egypt. The Greeks have a different story. In any case, this was the first in a series of unjust acts.

Later on, some Greeks, whose names the Persians failed to record, put into the Phoenician port of Tyre. They were probably Cretans. They made away with the king’s daughter, Europa, in what was obviously a tit-for-tat move.

The Greeks were responsible for the next outrageous act. They sailed an armed merchant vessel to Aea in Colchis, located on the river Phasis. Not being content with merely doing the business that brought them there, they abducted the king’s daughter, Medea. The king sent to Greece demanding the return of his daughter and reparations. The answer was blunt. The Greeks had no intention of returning Medea, or offering reparations. They justified this by saying that they had not received reparations for the abduction of Io from Argos.