Herodotus is considered one of the most entertaining historians. His account of history is considered the first example of non-fiction work, and a treasured collection of delightful history. His work seems to be centered on the inability of people of west and east to lie together, or what is referred to as the clash of civilization by history analysts. In Greek history, the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, then king of Persia, is an epic event that continues to thrill many to this day and is all accounted for in Herodotus' work. Despite the wealth of history in his work, according to Martels “Not everything that Herodotus reports can be so readily sourced because his means of gathering evidence are not reliable” (1).
One of his themes is the conflict between Europe and Asia or, to be more specific, warfare in ancient Greece between the Greeks and the Barbarians. In his works, which can be treated as essays, he defines “Greekness” partly by describing the behavior of Greek people, and partly, albeit by means or a mere suggestion, contrasting them with Barbarians and other non-Greek people. The Persians, for example, are capable of conceiving the idea of a free government, but eventually, they reject it. On the hand, Greeks, even when they accede in oppression, prefer freedom.
From the highlights of book 2 to 4 of the Herodotus story, we learn that the Scythian people are courageous in defending their freedom, but they are incapable of self-restraint (Lendering 16). An example from Herodotus story is an instance where the Scythian people make a bonfire of marijuana and dance around it breathing the fumes, and eventually they are drunk and pass out. The Greek people, on the other hand, find such behavior strange. The Greeks enjoy and conduct drinking parties, but they dilute their wine with water to avoid getting drunk. Even in instances where they drunk, they still conduct themselves with honor and still spend the evening playing music and bonding with friends.
In another comparison, Herodotus’s native town was ruled by Queen Artemisia, whose name means a Carian queen in Greek, even though she was not Greek. In his accounts, Herodotus portrays her relationship with her father as a close daughter-father relationship. He also describes the queen as influential. Daughters in Greece have a close relationship with their fathers, a trend that Herodotus attributes to the fact that sons are sent off to boot camps at an early age, and later sent to soldiers’ messes.
The Athenians are monogamous and highly guard the chastity of the wives. Even among the Greek people, polygamous cases are rare and in one case a Spartan king refuses to divorce his barren wife and is forced by Ephors to take a second wife for the purpose of keeping his bloodline alive. However, as Herodotus puts it, in the “filthy” East, women have no place of honor. They serve as temple prostitutes, and incest and polygamy are the order of the day.
In book five, we also learn the contrast of national contrasts between the Greeks and Persians. While Greeks are willing to defend their independence and liberty, even to the point of death, the Persians are ready and happy to slaughter brave people to keep them in slavery.
Herodotus' work portrays the Easterners as working to eliminate what appears to be a threat as their fighting strategy. Their way of fighting the enemy is putting him in a disadvantaged position, having too excessive greed for power and control, and denying people the respect and honor they deserve. On the other hand, it reveals the willingness of Westerners to fight for their ancestors and the shrines they created, as well as die for their wives and children. Dying while facing fearful odds, as the westerners did, is portrayed as a better way for a brave man to die.
Lendering, Jona. Scythians/Sacae, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
Martels, Zweder . Travel Fact and Travel Fiction: Studies on Fiction, Literary Tradition,Scholarly Discovery and Observation in Travel Writing. Leiden: Brill, 1994. Print.