The Wolf Girl, the Greeks and the Gods: Exploring the History and Legacy of Herodotus

TLDR In this podcast episode, the book "The Wolf Girl, the Greeks and the Gods" by Tom Holland is discussed, delving into the life and works of Herodotus, the father of history. Herodotus's cosmopolitan perspective, storytelling method, and unique insights into different cultures make his work a groundbreaking contribution to the field of history.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The podcast episode is about the book "The Wolf Girl, the Greeks and the Gods" by Tom Holland, which tells the story of a Spartan princess named Gorgos and her role in the Persian War, as well as the desire to explain why the war happened.
05:28 Herodotus, the father of history, is a Greek historian from Halicarnassus (now Bodrum, Turkey) who lived in the fifth century BC and is known for his cosmopolitan perspective and compilation of stories and wonders.
10:04 Herodotus, unlike other historians of his time, has a global perspective and aims to record the glory of the Greek-Persian wars and the customs and wealth of various regions, making his work the first great work of history, gazetteer, ethnography, and nonfiction. He wrote the histories several decades after the Persian invasion, speaking to people who had taken part in the events, and his method of oral history and storytelling creates a sense of witnessing the birth of historical method.
14:43 Herodotus constructs the first ever counterfactual, exploring what would have happened if the Athenians had sided with the Persians instead of the Spartans, and he defends the Athenians' role in the war, potentially writing his history for an Athenian audience.
19:08 Herodotus is considered the first historian and one of the first travel writers, combining history with ethnography, anthropology, and travel writing, although there have been debates about the accuracy of his accounts.
23:30 Herodotus's sources in Egypt, the priests, may have been pulling his leg or lost in translation, leading to questionable accounts of flying snakes and strange burial practices, but his methodology of reporting what he was told and not shooting the messenger is evident throughout his work.
28:06 Herodotus's unique perspective as someone on the edge of both the Persian and Greek worlds allows him to deliver insightful and respectful accounts of different cultures, even though some may view him as the "father of lies."
32:33 Herodotus's reporting of accounts from other cultures may sometimes seem unbelievable, but there are instances where his skepticism is proven wrong, highlighting the importance of considering his accounts with an open mind.
36:57 Herodotus's account of the Persian wars is thrilling and stirring, and it holds up as the first war that historians can analyze, despite its Greek chauvinism and the inherent cycle of greatness and softness that he describes.
41:35 Herodotus's histories warn of the treacherous nature of greatness and power, as seen in the rise and fall of empires like Persia and Athens, and the subsequent defeats of Sparta, Thebes, and Macedonia.
46:09 Herodotus's stories are both funny and dark, with one story involving a boy who gets kidnapped, castrated, and sold into slavery, only to return and seek revenge on his captor.
Categories: History

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