The History, a work of the ancient world, is remarkable for its scope, naturalistic explanations, and multiple viewpoints.  Herodotus is known as the original Historian, attempting to relate causes in the aftermath of the victory and ascendence of the Athenians over the Persian Empire and the Aegean sea.

We read of the Greco/Persian War here, and the entire book is written as an explanation of historical events that led to that point.

Book I

Herodotus concerns himself with the origin of the conflict between Persia and Greece which began with King Croessus of Lydia, who was overcome by the Persian king Cyrus.  Meanwhile, in Athens  a democracy forms against the rise of Pisistratus, and in Sparta a strict order of state gathers control of the Peloponnesus.  Cyrus, who overcomes the Medes and Scythia/Cimmeria alliance that overthrew the Assyrian Empire, captures Babylon and campaigns in Scythia against the Massagetae, where he is killed in battle.


Book II

Cambyses comes to power and plans to enlarge the Persian empire in Egypt.  Herodotus provides a description of Egyptian history, customs and geography.

Book III

Cambyses defeats the son of Amasis in Egypt, continuing his campaign of conquest against the Ethiopians and Ammon.   He loses a large army in the desert west of Egypt, and goes mad in Egypt where he kills his brother and leaves Persia in confusion under the rule of the Magi (false Smerdis) at his death.  The Spartans interfere with the Island of Samos under Polycrates.   Herodotus, following the adventures of Darius who overthrows the Magi, meditates on the far east (India).  Darius, now firmly in command, conquers and subdues Samos, and reconquers Babylon which had revolted in the Persian chaotic interregnum.

Book IV

Darius begins an attack on the Scythians to the north of the Black Sea.  Herodotus explains the history of the Scythians, and speculates on Geography.  Darius, forced to retreat from Scythia, leaves his general Megabazus in Thrace, while he campaigns in Libya and against Cyrene.

Book V

While Megabazus subdues Thrace, a revolt, lead by Aristagoras breaks out against Otanes in Ionia.   Aristagoras seeks aid first from Cleomenes in Sparta (refused), and then in Athens.  Athens sends ships to aid the Ionians in their failed insurrection, angering Darius against the Athenians.

Book VI

Securing the Chersonese (Hellespont), the Persians gather the Greek cities and the Island of Aegina preparing for an assault on Athens.  Darius places Datis and Artaphernes in command, bringing Hippias back to reassume control of Athens.   Miltiades at the command of an Athenian and Plataean army routes the Persians at Marathon.

Book VII

Darius’ death means he will never get his vengeance against the Greeks.  Xerxes, succeeding to the throne, organizes a massive campaign against his father’s enemies.  The Persians face a naval disaster at Sepias, and march through Thrace and Macedon to face king Leonidas of the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae.


Beginning with the naval battle of Artemisium, the Greeks retreat toward Athens, deciding between the Isthmus (Corinth) and the bay of Salamis.  The battle of Salamis results in a defeat for Xerxes.   Alexander of Macedon is sent by the Persian king to bargain for the surrender of Athens, and we read of the heritage of Alexander the Great.

Book IX

The finale of Herodotus is mostly concerned with Mardonius (the Persian general) and the Battle of Plataea (1st battle).  The Persians are defeated and also driven from the Chersonese.


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