Herodotus is the historian of freedom. The founder of history as a literary genre, he is one of two Greek geniuses who have set the agenda of Western historiography for twenty-five hundred years. The other, of course, is Thucydides. We tend to think of them as a balancing act: Herodotus is the historian of the Persian Wars, Thucydides the historian of the Peloponnesian War; Herodotus chronicles the rise of Greece, Thucydides its decline; Thucydides is the hard-nosed proto-political scientist, Herodotus the softer, more open-ended proto-anthropologist. In truth, there is nothing soft about Herodotus. He is the chronicler of the habits of the human heart that make freedom worth fighting for and make it possible to defeat despotism. He is equally the connoisseur of human frailty who knows every step of the slippery slope that leads right back to despotism. There is no more important book for students of the Western past to read.


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