Voyages and Travels: Ancient and Modern

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Cosimo, Inc., Jan 1, 2010 - Literary Collections - 400 pages
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Author names not noted above: Sir Francis Drake, Francis Petty, Walter Biggs, Edward Hayes, Sir Walter Raleigh Editor name not noted above: Philip Nichols Translator names not noted above: G.C. Macaulay, Thomas Gordon Originally published between 1909 and 1917 under the name "Harvard Classics," this stupendous 51-volume set-a collection of the greatest writings from literature, philosophy, history, and mythology-was assembled by American academic CHARLES WILLIAM ELIOT (1834-1926), Harvard University's longest-serving president. Also known as "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf," it represented Eliot's belief that a basic liberal education could be gleaned by reading from an anthology of works that could fit on five feet of bookshelf. Volume XXXIII features essential writings of ethnography and exploration. In their own voices, hear: [ Herodotus, "the father of story-tellers," on the gods of ancient Egypt [ Tacitus, in the "front rank" of ancient historians, on the Teutonic tribes of the Roman era [ Sir Francis Drake, "the greatest of the naval adventurers of England of the time of Elizabeth," relates his historic 16th-century journey around the Straits of Magellan [ Sir Walter Raleigh, "courtier and statesman, soldier and sailor, scientist and man of letters," tells of his 1594 discovery of Guiana [ and others.
 

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Contents

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Herodotus was the inventor of universal history. Often called the Father of History, his histories are divided into nine books named after the nine muses. A native of Halicarnassus on the coast of Asia Minor (modern Bodrum, Turkey), he traveled extensively, writing lively descriptions of the lands he saw and the peoples he encountered. Herodotus set out to relate the story of the conflict of the Greeks of his own time against the "barbarian" Asiatic empire of Achaemenid Persia. His long narrative, titled by modern convention The Histories, begins with the earliest traditions he believed reliable. It ends with a highly colored account of the defeat of the Persian emperor Xerxes and his immense army of slaves by a much smaller number of Greeks fighting to preserve their freedom. Herodotus wrote history, but his methods and assumptions were not those of a modern historian, and his work was unjustly rejected by his successor Thucydides as factually highly unreliable and full of inappropriate romance. By his own admission, Herodotus retold the stories of other peoples without necessarily believing them all. This allowed him total artistic freedom and control to create a picture of the world that corresponded entirely to his own view of it. The result is a picture of Herodotus's world that is also a picture of his mind and, therefore, of many other Greek minds during the period known as "late Archaic." During this period, the Greek mind was dominated by reason, the domain of the first philosophers and the observant and thoughtful medical theorists of the Hippocratic school. Traditional beliefs in the gods of Homer and in their Oracles, especially the Oracle at Delphi, also dominated during this period. The literary genius of Herodotus consisted in the art of the storyteller. The stories he chose to tell, and the order in which he told them, provide his readers with a total view of his world and the way in which the will of the gods and the ambitions of humans interacted to produce what is known as history. For this reason the ancient critic Longinus justly called Herodotus "the most Homeric of all authors." Like Homer, Herodotus strove to understand the world theologically---a goal that makes his work difficult for the reader to understand at first. But, in place of Homer's divine inspiration, Herodotus used his eyes and ears and wrote not poetry but prose. Rejecting what is commonly known as myth, he accepted instead "oral tradition" about remembered events. For example, although he believed that the Trojan War had been fought, he could not investigate it beyond what the poets had said. In his view this "ancient history" of the Greeks and the peoples of Asia was not like contemporary history, because the heroes of old who had created it were beings of a different and superior order who had had a different, direct, and personal relationship with the gods. In recognizing this distinction, Herodotus defined for all time the limits of the historian's discipline.

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