Monday, March 26, 2012

What I'm looking for

"These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, 
in the hope of thereby preserving from decay the remembrance of what 
men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the 
Greeks and the Barbarians from losing their due meed of glory; 
and withal to put on record what were their grounds of feud."

I went back today and put the notes from this blog into my book. I'm a big fan of having as much information as possible inside my book for future easy reference. This reminded me of what I had researched and how to begin today. I discovered that this book takes place from 557-479 B.C. Book 1 is the story of the Persian King Cyrus and takes place from 557-530 B.C. Herodotus lived 484-425 B.C. so he is giving the history leading up to his day and then he is writing about current events of his day. In that sense he is a first hand witness to what he writes and to me that makes it more believable.

I also learned that this history is a "ring composition." Other ring compositions are Beowulf, Homer, Aeneid, Paradise Lost and the Hebrew scriptures. Ring compositions are written versions of stories that were first composed orally. I know that Herodotus gave public readings of his history so maybe he did compose it orally first. He also lived at a time when he was surrounded by oral compositions and was an expert at Homer. Maybe that's why this work has the same style and feeling to it. I think, though, that it is much less dynamic and action-packed than Homer and is certainly more factual.

In a ring composition "a narrator touches on a number of topics until a significant topic is reached, then continues on in the narrative by retracing in reverse order the topics which were mentioned on the way to the significant point." There you go, clear as mud! Anyway, I'll try to make sense of it as I read Herodotus and see if I can find the "ring" in it.

I will also be looking for "how [the Persians] habits of thinking about the world finally brought about their downfall in Greece." This quote from Wikipedia really resonated with me and helped me develop a why for reading this book so I created a system today for tracking 'ways of thinking' that I think Herodotus is setting out to show the tie between their thinking and their downfall.

2 MAIN THEMES I'm looking for as I begin: 
  1. Elements of the ring composition- marked in my book with an RC next to it
  2. Persians habits of thinking- marked in my book with a TH next to it

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