I’m not even sure why I picked up this book. I must have been intrigued by Herodotus. I can definitely say that I did not pick this book up after watching “The English Patient” where Herodotus and his histories feature prominently. I think it must have been the grand title “The Man who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus”.
I don’t know much about Herodotus and I haven’t read the Histories either but that is not a prerequisite for reading this book. I must have been intrigued with Herodotus from another quote I had read in a book by Steven Pinker “The stuff of thought” where he describes Herodotus as much as the Father of history as the child of the alphabet (or something to that effect- I quote from memory). Herodotus for those who are not familiar with him was the world’s first documented historian- writing in the 5th Century BC- a man who defined the study of history in the way we have come to recognise today.
Marozzi does a retracing of sorts in Herodotus’ footsteps visiting Turkey (starting with Bodrum- the town of Halicarnassus where Herodotus was born) continuing to Iraq, Egypt and finally Greece. Marozzi loves Herodotus and describes him not just as the world’s first Historian but also “its first foreign corresponent, investigative journalist, anthropologist, and travel writer”. Marozzi’s account sprawls just as Herodotus’ original narrative supposedly sprawls across different genres, themes and timelines. And like Herodotus who in his time gathered a lot of information from priests in temples, Marozzi meets a lot of impressive people- intellectuals, museum directors, diplomats, writers and so on to gather their opinions on Herodotus and a lot of other things.
And through his journeys Marozzi highlights how little the history of humanity has changed. That although learning history may help you handle things better, people never avoid making the same mistake twice. “It is one of history’s most endearing illusions”. That our current times reflect things that are much the same as they were in Herodotus’ times with just a little change in context.