Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: The Way of Herodotus

International Herald Tribune (Tobin Harshaw)

The Way of Herodotus. Travels With the Man Who Invented History. By Justin Marozzi. 348 pages. Da Capo Press.

Sometimes the trip that starts out on the wrong foot can prove to be the most rewarding. You know, showing the fortitude to overcome the initial hassles (missed connection! lost luggage!) and disappointments (tiny cabin! tainted seviche!) can turn a vacation into a journey, leisure into fulfillment. Such is the case in tagging along with the travel writer Justin Marozzi in "The Way of Herodotus," as he follows in the footsteps of one of the world's first travel writers and, yes, "father of history." Marozzi starts with a solid plan: to wander the limits of what was Herodotus's world and look at its nations and people through classical eyes. Thus the book is one long digression - exactly what Marozzi rightly considers Herodotus' "Histories" themselves.

First the missteps. Marozzi starts his journey in the tourist trap of Bodrum, Turkey, which was called Halicarnassus when Herodotus was born there around 480 B.C. It's a digression too far: Herodotus had little interest in his hometown, possibly because he put on his traveling sandals and skipped town decades before the completion of its Wonder of the World, the tomb of Mausolos. Marozzi goes farther astray with two America-bashing chapters set in Baghdad, a city built more than a millennium after Herodotus died. Then to Babylon, which Herodotus described in detail but may not have visited; if so, he inexplicably failed to notice the Hanging Gardens.

Off to Egypt, thank the gods. Herodotus had the time of his life in the Nile valley, and Marozzi is infected by his enthusiasm

See the above page for the rest of the review.

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