421 CHRONICLESnWest Beats EastnHistory of Herodotus, translated bynDavid Grene, Chicago: University ofnChicago Press; $30.00.nAlong with Xenophon and Plutarch,nHerodotus may be the most underappreciatednwriter of antiquity. His Historiesn(by which he meant somethingnlike “investigations”) of the relationsnbetween Greeks and barbarians hasnmore narrative power than most novels,nmore colorful incidents than anyntravel book, and more insight intonhuman nature than any 1,000 works ofnsociology, psychology, or anthropologynthat one can name. His easygoingnstyle is so good that it would be worthnlearning Greek just to read Herodotus,neven if Homer, Plato, Sophocles, andnLIBERAL ARTSnWho Says Literature Is Dead?nE.P. Dutton had trouble marketing RednSnow because its author, EdwardnTopol, could barely speak English,nThe solution was two-part: antransparent polyvinyl chloriden(PVC) book jacket with anheat-sealed pocket full of whitenstage snow wrapped over anone-piece smooth whitenPermaeote cover with the titlenstamped in blood red near thentop. The jacket’s snow pouch isnplaced just low enough to allownthe cover title to show throughnthe clear plastic. The result is ansnow scene that complementsnthe title and is reminiscent ofnscenes in glass balls filled withnartificial snow that falls silendynon models of trees and housesnwhen the ball is turned upsidendown and then righted.nSimilarly, when shaken ornturned, the “snow” in the jacketnmoves enough to create thenimpression of falling snownflakes.nThe jacket will add an estimatedn50-550 to the cost of the book—a sumnclose to what the author will realize.nEnglish lessons would have beenncheaper.n—from Publisher’s Weekly, 21 Augustn1987.nall the rest had disappeared.nHerodotus’ reputation was very greatnin the ancient world, where one of thenmost hackneyed literary discussionsnwas centered upon comparing himnwith his “rival,” Thucydides. One criticnpointed out that while Thucydidesnchose to portray his people (the Athenians)nin defeat, Herodotus took for hisnsubject the great victory of the Greeksnover the Persian empire. It is that storynwe think of first in connection withnHerodotus—of the Athenians chargingnthe Persians on the plain of Marathon,nof the 300 Spartans holding thenpass at Thermopylae, and of the greatnnaval victory at Salamis. This culturalncollision between East and West was asngreat as any in the history of the world,nand it decisively determined the coursenof our own civilization. The Greeknvictory is partly responsible for thendifference between a self-governednUnited States adhering to the rule ofnlaw and the regime of the AyatollahnKhomeini.nSince Herodotus preferred storytellingnto argument, two anecdotes fromnhis work can make the cultural contrastnclear. First, the Persians. WhennKing Xerxes decided to invade andnconquer Greece, he made every effortnto insure success. He assembled annenormous army and navy fromnthroughout his empire; to avoid thenproblem of sailing around MountnAthos, where an earlier fleet had metndisaster, he cut a canal around it andncreated an island. Even more impressively,nhe constructed a bridge acrossnthe Hellespont—the symbolic dividingnline between Europe and Asia.nWhen a violent storm smashed thenbridge, Xerxes not only cut off thenheads of all the engineers, he also gavenorders that the Hellespont itself shouldnreceive 300 lashes and be branded withnhot irons.nThis was the Persian response tonmisfortune. Not long afterwards, thenPersian army was halted at the pass ofnThermopylae by a small force of Spartansnand their allies. A Persian scoutnrode up and inspected the scene andnreported back to Xerxes that he hadnseen soldiers combing their hair. ThenGreat King was bewildered because hendid not realize that Spartans facingndeath always pay careful attention tontheir hair. No matter how hard theyntried, the Persians were unable to dis­nnnlodge the well-groomed Spartans,nuntil a secret pathway was betrayed tonthem. The allies were dismissed (exceptnfor some Thespians who refusednto go), and the Spartans bought timenfor the rest of Greece by staying andndying, with their King Leonidas, to thenlast man:nThe Greeks, who knew that thenenemy were on their waynround by the mountain tracknand that death was inevitable,nfought with recklessndesperation. … By this timenmost of their spears werenbroken, and they were killingnPersians with their swords. Innthe course of that fightnLeonidas fell, having foughtnlike a man indeed. . . . Fourntimes the Greeks drove thenenemy off, and at last by theirnvalour succeeded in dragging itnaway. . . . They resisted to thenlast, with their swords, if theynhad them, and, if not, withntheir hands and teeth, until thenPersians, coming on from thenfront over the ruins of the wallnand closing in from behind,nfinally overwhelmed them.n{de Selincourt translation)nAmericans who recall the battie ofnNew Orleans or the Alamo or Corregidornwill have no hesitation in claimingnthe Spartans as their spiritualnancestors.nMost of Herodotus’ work is notntaken up with the Persian Wars. Therenare long sections on Egypt, the Scythians,nand the conflict between the LydiannKingdom and Ionian Greeks.nSome of it borders on mere gossipnbecause Herodotus seems to havencared less whether a story was literallyntrue than whether it exemplified somentheme of his work. He swallowed a lotnof obviously silly things from thenEgyptians, because he was convincednthat in Egypt everything was donenbackwards from the rest of the world.nIn reporting the tales of “native informants,”nHerodotus proved himself tonbe the first great ethnographer as wellnas the first great historian. His “slipshod”nmethods have infuriated morenthan one professional historian, andnthe greatest classical scholar of modernntimes, Wilamowitz, managed to devotena book to every major Greekn