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"История" Геродота / "The Histories" by Herodotus

"История" Геродота / "The Histories" by Herodotus

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Tarusa

В окна стучит капель: в Москве снова морозы уступили место грязи и сырости. Это значит, что приходится сидеть дома и читать. Я для себя выбрал Историю Геродота.

 

Странный выбор, не правда ли? У нас каждое десятилетие меняется прочтение исторических событий, открываются новые факты о прошлом, а я открываю книгу, написанную чуть не 2,5 тыс. лет назад.

 

Но так ли сильно устарел Геродот? Исследователи находят очень мало расхождений с данными исторической науки. У Геродота не было Интернета, да и с библиотеками была напряжёнка, а туры в Египет были несравненно дороже и рискованнее нынешних. Тем не менее, он прекрасно знаком с реалиями разных стран от Карфагена и Причерноморья до Бактрии и Индии. Сухие данные учебников в его изложении принимают облик обывателей, живущих размеренной жизнью, или героев, восстающих власть магов-узурпаторов; негодяев из Хиоса, делающих бизнес на продаже мальчиков в евнухи, и местечковым склокам фокейцев с фессалийцами, разрушившим план похода Ксеркса.

 

Я долго думал, почему эта История кажется мне такой непохожей на многочисленные «истории» современных авторов. И пришёл к неожиданному выводу: Геродот гораздо правдивее многих из них. Да, мне могут возразить, что он подвержен конъюнктуре, в одностороннем описании действий разных греческих полисов его упрекал ещё Плутарх. Но Геродот нигде не опускается до передёргивания фактов, он добросовестно указывает даже те из них, которые не вписываются в его концепцию. Он отмечает и то, что в Персии было сильное демократическое движение, и то, что Афины на первоначальном этапе отправляли в Сарды послов с выражением покорности, с болью упоминает про активную помощь персам ионийских городов Малой Азии, из-за которых и начались греко-персидские войны.

 

Могут ли люди извлекать уроки из истории? Это зависит от того, имеются ли искажения в нашем понимании прошлого. Пока одни говорят, что коммунизм был проклятием в развитии России, а другие – что только он смог положить конец многовековому самодержавию и позволил сделать огромный скачок в историческом развитии, мы далеко не уйдём. Умение слушать друг друга и принимать мир таким, каков он есть, а не таким, каким мы строим его в своих фантазиях, - этому неплохо бы поучиться современным историкам у Геродота. И разве только историкам?

 

Drops are knocking on the windows, it means that frosts have abandoned Moscow to mud and humidity. So it is time now we stayed at home and read. My choice was The Histories by Herodotus.

 

Strange choice, isn’t it? Our understanding of historical facts changes every decade, new data on the past emerge, while I start reading the book written nearly 2.5 millenia ago.

 

But is Herodotus that obsolete? Researchers find very few divergences from historical data with him. Herodotus didn’t use Internet, libraries were rare and tours to Egypt were much more risky and expensive than at present. In spite of that he knew very well realities of different countries from Carfage and the Black Sea to Bactria and India. He turns dry teach-book descriptions into the common people living ordinary lives or heroes challenging the power of magician usurpers; villains from Chios who sell boys to be eunuchs or local conflicts between Phokeians and Phessalians that destroyed campaign plan of Xerx.

 

I spent much time thinking why The Histories seem so different from many “histories” of modern writers. My conclusion was a surprise: Herodotus is much more truthful than most of them. Yes, you may retort that he was also influenced by political situation, Plutarch was the first to accuse him of biased description of different Greek polises’ actions. But Herodotus never juggles with facts, he mentions even those not in line with his views. He acknowledges strong democratic movement in Persia and sending Athen’s ambassadors to Sardes to express obedience at the beginning. He admits with pain active assistance to the Persians from Asia Minor Ionic polises, which were the casus belli for the Greek-Persian wars.

 

Can people take lessons from history? It depends on distortions in our understanding of the past. We will have little progress, when some people claim communism as a disaster in Russian history, while others state that it was the only concept that put an end to the multi-century tsarist autocracy and resulted in the rapid leap in historical development. Herodotus’s ability to listen to each other and accept the world as it is and not as we dream could be a good lesson to the modern historians. And maybe not only to the historians?

  • Весьма точная оценка. С кем из античных историков по глубине можно сопоставить Геродота? Может, с Тацитом?
  • What an interesting view of the last century of Russian history in a nutshell. Communism WAS a disaster, but then, so was the French Revolution. Communism was a dictatorship, and dictatorships are able to make radical changes resulting in progress. However, in the end, dictatorships do not work once the dictator strays too much from the will of the people. Other countries also made a lot of progress in the 20th century, without Communism.

    Herodotus seems like pretty heavy reading! We took a trip to Egypt last March, and studied for the trip by taking a course in Egyptian history, in which Herodotus was mentioned quite a few times. The professor took the view that Herodotus accurately reported what he saw, but some of it was poppycock. For instance, Herodotus asked his guide what the writing on the pyramid said, and the guide told him it was the amount of grain and onions they had paid the workers who built it. Since they have since translated the writings on the pyramids and know this is NOT what it says, the professor concluded that Herodotus's guide made up this story, because he had no clue what it said, and Herodotus reported the false story accurately in his journal.
    • I agree that dictatorship can't lead to long-term prosperity. The problem of Russian communism is that it didn't replace a democracy but another dictatorship. Besides, it received support from ordinary people during the Revolution. Some historians believe that the people just gave a cart-blanche to the Bolsheviks to modernize the country, however much it would cost. That's why the regime was so strong even at the edge of defeat to Germany in 1941.

      By and by the Soviet Union started to lag behind from the West in technology and in living standards, so the cart-blanche expired.

      Anyway, my point is that many researchers make a plane picture out of a more complicated reality. They used to praise communism in Soviet times and now they blame it. The reader has to take old and new books together and read them both to receive a true picture. At least this is what we have here, in Russia.
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