"The Histories" - Herodotus
by Justin Marozzi
If anyone, no matter who, were given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations in the world the set of beliefs which he thought best, he would inevitably - after careful considerations of their relative merits - choose that of his own country. Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best. "The Histories" by Herodotus
In the age of Greek supremacism that was the fifth century BC, Herodotus stood out as uniquely open to – and interested in – foreign cultures. He was fascinated by the Persians and the Egyptians, not to mention the Indians, Scythians, Libyans and Lydians, Ethiopians, Massagetae, the Thracians and the Babylonians, at a time when for most of his countrymen they were all simply barbarians. Thrilled by the differences between peoples around the world, he was also deeply alive to our shared humanity. It is especially this trait, along with so many others – his endless curiosity, his fizzing humour, the willingness to go the extra mile to get the information he needed, the abundant affection for his fellow man and woman – that make him, for me, the quintessential travel writer. It’s travel writing crammed with everything you want to find: history, anthropology, geography, exploration, natural history, drama, anecdote, sexual scandal, compelling reportage, tall tales of the weird and the wonderful. He’s unputdownable more than 2,500 years after writing his masterpiece and how many travel writers can say that?