The Bucket List Book Adventure: Book 15 - Histories

Dear Henry,

It's been a while, but I've finally gotten back to the bucket list book adventure and have finished "Histories" by Herodotus. Hair- odd-'s taken me a month to learn how to pronounce his name, and I still say it wrong half of the time. Anyway, let me tell you all about the Histories.

Herodotus, the "Father Of History," is somewhat of a mystery. He was believed to be born around 484 BC in the vicinity of the ancient Greek city of Halicarnassus, today known as Bodrum, Turkey. Maybe. There are a lot of question marks. 

His life has a lot more question marks. Herodotus traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa and was believed to be in Athens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. And, of course, his death is also big of a mystery. It is estimated to have occurred between 430 and 420 BC, and he probably rests in Thurii, Italy, having left Athens around 430 BC for the Greek colony.  

It is unsure exactly when Histories was published, but the work was well known by 425 BC, and because he alludes to his upcoming relocation to Thurii, it probably wasn't published until after 430 BC. Maybe.

The book begins about 550 BC and is a (very) detailed study of Greek, Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Persian history and the cultural factors that influenced and contributed to the Greco-Persian Wars which occurred from 490-479 BC. It also tells the story of Greece becoming a unified country rather than a collection of city-states.

There are some great stories, many I'm sure are fantastical, but others were intriguing.

I always thought it particularly odd that, given how little women were regarded in the ancient world, Helen wasn't tossed over the walls of Troy the minute the Greeks attacked, if not by the Royal family, then by the common people who were about to be raided, killed, and/or enslaved.

Well, Herodotus had an explanation for that. Per the Histories, Paris and Helen stopped by Egypt before landing at Troy. Thonis, the warden of the Nile, heard about the wife-thieving and confiscated Helen until he could send for Menelaus. However, the Greeks were already on their way to Troy and wouldn't believe that Helen was in Egypt. I suspect the Greek kings needed to recoup the voyage's financial loss.

As far as the fantastic tales go, did you know that Heliopolis, Egypt, is the home of the phoenix? Or that Arabia had flying venomous snakes. Also, Ethiopian royalty were buried in hollowed-out quartz crystal coffins. 

There are a few bits (pun not intended) that I hope are fantastic, but I suspect they aren't. The Scythians fed a pupil of Cyraxes to him at a banquet, and Harpagus was fed his son by King Astyages. Both incidents caused a lot of drama in the ancient world.

If you want the story of Leonides and the 300, this is also the book to read. However, Gerard Butler and his squad tell THAT story much better than I ever possibly could.

My favorite tale was that of the poet Arion, who was attacked and robbed by the ship crew he had booked passage with on his return trip from Tarentum after winning the ancient Greek version of "The Voice."  Arion requested and was granted a final song, which he dedicated to Apollo and sang so beautifully that dolphins surrounded the ship. The poet then threw himself overboard rather than allow the sailors to kill him. The dolphins carried him safely to a temple. The sailors were caught when they came to port and died by crucifixion (and we thought only the ancient Romans did things like that).

I was interested in the ancient Greek definition of happiness: Health, freedom from troubles, great kids, physical beauty, and a comfortable living with the promise of a "good" (heroically in battle) death. I think we aren't so different from the ancient Greeks and that those things make most of us happy. 

Well, perhaps not the "die in battle" part, but I do hope I meet it head-on and not whining. 

Still, this was a very long book and a rather difficult read. I also thought Herodotus spent entirely too much time on the Nile, its course, and its unique features, but I suppose it was much more important then. 

Next up is Clouds by Aristophanes. I can't wait to tell you all about it.

Check out the YouTube video here:

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, photographer, and storyteller currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at, you can also read her book reviews at and US military biographies at

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