The History of Literature #285 Herodotus

Herodotus (c. 484 – 425? BCE) has been called both “The Father of History” and “The Father of Lies.” His accounts of the ancient world, including a deep dive into all aspects of geography, biology, and culture (among many other topics), are fascinating, indispensable, and – at times – confoundingly implausible. Who was Herodotus? What can we make of his work? And is it worth reading today? In this episode of The History of Literature, Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke to make the case for Herodotus.

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The History of Literature Episode 5 – Greek Tragedy (Part One)


How was tragedy invented? Why was it so popular in Ancient Greece, and what power does it have for us today? Using the discussion of tragedy in Aristotle’s Poetics, author Jacke Wilson takes a look at tragedies from ancient times to Shakespeare and Breaking Bad.


Sensual Sappho

Wow, what a great response to the Sappho episode of the History of Literature podcast. An all-time record for downloads in a day! You can catch up on the Sappho episode (or any other episode) by subscribing on iTunes or Android or Stitcher, or just typing “History of Literature” into whatever podcast app you use.

(Let me know if that doesn’t work – most of the big sites and apps are carrying the History of Literature, but if they aren’t yet, I’ll make sure they do.)

Need more Sappho in your life? My podcast isn’t enough! Hey, I’m not offended! In fact, I’ll join you and say we all could use a little more Sappho in our lives. You might want to check out this essay by the always excellent Edith Hall in the always excellent New York Review of Books. A sneak preview:

In about 300 BC, a doctor was summoned to diagnose the illness afflicting Antiochus, crown prince of the Seleucid empire in Syria. The young man’s symptoms included a faltering voice, burning sensations, a racing pulse, fainting, and pallor. In his biography of Antiochus’ father, Seleucus I, Plutarch reports that the symptoms manifested themselves only when Antiochus’ young stepmother Stratonice was in the room. The doctor was therefore able to diagnose the youth’s malady as an infatuation with her. The cause of the illness was clearly erotic, because the symptoms were “as described by Sappho.” The solution was simple: Antiochus’ father divorced Stratonice and let his son marry her instead.

Plutarch’s story invites us to wonder if the relationship between Sappho and erotic symptoms is entirely straightforward…

Thanks to the holiday, we’ll be back on Wednesday this week with another Restless Mind Show (on the same podcast feed as the History of Literature). And on Monday, we’ll have our first installment in the incredible inventiveness and creativity of Greek Tragedy, perhaps the pinnacle of theater and the theatrical experience. Top five, no question. It’s worth spending some time to figure out why.

Until then, may you enjoy a faltering voice, burning sensations, a racing pulse, and fainting and pallor. Hopefully brought on by Sapphic sensuality with your sweet partner and not whatever strain of flu is going around this winter.

Or if your sweet partner isn’t available, or if the two of you need a little assistance, let’s just go with this:

Onward and upward, everyone!