Reinaldo B. Pérez
Reviews of Herodotus,
Trans. G.C. Macaulay. Rev. & ed. Donald Lateiner. New York:
Barnes & Noble, 2004. Pp. xxxvi, 584. ISBN 978-1-59308-102-7,
The History of the Peloponnesian
War. Trans. R. Crawley. Rev. & ed. Donald Lateiner. New
York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. Pp. xlvi, 605. ISBN 978-1-59308-091-4.
Also discussed in this review:
Grene = Herodotus,
The History, trans. D. Grene (Chicago, IL: U Chicago
Herodotus, The Histories, trans. G. Rawlinson, rev. R.
Thomas (NY: Knopf [Everyman's Library], 1997).
Sélincourt/Marincola = Herodotus, The Histories, trans.
A. de Sélincourt, ed. J. Marincola (NY: Penguin, 1996; rev.
= Herodotus, The Histories, trans. R. Waterfield, ed.
C. Dewald (NY: Oxford U Pr, 1998).
= The Landmark Thucydides, trans. R. Crawley, ed. R.B.
Strassler (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. S. Lattimore
(Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1998).
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. R. Warner,
ed. M.I. Finley (NY: Penguin, 1972.)
Such is the wealth of accessible knowledge that
all but the specialist set out to their benefit with guidebook in
tow to visit such sites as Marathon, Chartres, and Castle Hedingham,
or with good editions in hand to read Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides,
or Shakespeare. Maps, a plan and elevation, a list of dates, a
reflective commentary, notes that are informed but not intrusive,
that discuss the controversies and allow new travelers to make their
own discoveries and returning pilgrims to renew afresh their faith
in inspired human achievement—these things can speed the traveler
along on a satisfying journey. A good edition with good notes of a
classic work will provide that come-along-with-me sharing of
knowledge and experience that new readers need, as well as those
signposts which can guide even the returning traveler.
* * *
The Barnes & Noble Classics editions of
Herodotus' Histories and Thucydides' Peloponnesian War
were both prepared by Donald Lateiner, John Wright Professor of
Humanities and Greek at Ohio Wesleyan University. The many excellent
features of each can be illustrated by comparing them with several
other easily available and inexpensive editions (see box above).
For his edition of Herodotus, Lateiner, author of
The Historical Method of Herodotus,
revises G.C. Macaulay's 1890 translation and equips it with an
introduction and numerous explanatory footnotes. Also included are
eight maps, four pages of comments on books, poems, and paintings
inspired by the Histories, a section of comments and
questions, and a detailed bibliography. The volume concludes with
the two extensive indices ("proper names" and "general") from
Macaulay's original edition.
Aubrey de Sélincourt's 1954 Penguin Classics
translation of Herodotus has been revised and updated (1996/2003) with an
introduction and notes by John Marincola, author of Authority and
Tradition in Ancient Historiography
and professor of Classics at New York University. The 1998 Oxford
World's Classics edition features a new translation by Robin
Waterfield with an introduction and notes by Carolyn Dewald,
Herodotean scholar and professor of classics and history at Bard
The 1997 Everyman's Library edition uses George
Rawlinson's translation (first published 1858–1860), as revised and
updated with an introduction by Rosalind Thomas, author of
Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, Science and the Art of Persuasion
and lecturer in ancient history at Royal Holloway, University of
London. This durable hardcover, with a sown cloth bookmark, reprints
the footnotes from the 1910 Everyman's edition; there are no maps.
David Grene's 1987 Herodotus is valuable as that of a well-known
translator of Greek verse; it includes footnote comments and eight
The five editions of Herodotus thus present five
different translations. A brief selection from the folktale story of
the clever thief (2.121e), which Herodotus heard from Egyptian
priests, can illustrate each translator's style and word choice:
came to the king's ears that the thief's body was stolen away, he
was sorely vexed. Wishing, therefore, whatever it might cost, to
catch the man who had contrived the trick, he had recourse (the
priests said) to an expedient, which I can scarcely credit. He sent
his own daughter to the common stews, with orders to admit all
comers, but to require every man to tell her what was the cleverest
and wickedest thing he had done in the whole course of his life.
(Rawlinson/Thomas; three sentences)
this the king, when it was reported to him that the dead body of the
thief had been stolen, displayed great anger; and desiring by all
means to find out whoever devised these things, did this (so at
least they said, but I do not believe the account),—he caused his
own daughter to sit before a house, and enjoined her to have sex
with all equally, and before having sex with any one to compel him
to tell her what was the most cunning and what the most unholy deed
which he had ever done in all his lifetime. (Macaulay/Lateiner; one
king was very angry when he learnt that the thief's body had been
stolen, and determined at any cost to catch the man who had been
clever enough to bring off such a coup. I find it hard to believe
the priests' account of the means he employed to catch him—but here
it is: he sent his own daughter to a brothel with orders to admit
all comers, and to compel each applicant, before granting him her
favours, to tell her what was the cleverest and wickedest thing that
he had ever done …. (Sélincourt/Marincola; two sentences)
king, as soon as he heard that the body of the thief had been
stolen, was in a fury. He wanted more than anything in the world to
find out who it was that had played the trick, and so he did
something—though I myself do not believe it. He set his daughter in
room and ordered her to consort with all the men that came to her,
alike. But before they enjoyed her, she must compel each to tell her
what was the cleverest and wickedest thing he had ever done in his
life. (Grene; four sentences)
news of the theft of the thief's corpse reached the king, he was
furious. There was nothing he wanted more than to catch whoever it
was who had pulled the trick off. So what he did—so the story goes,
but I find it unbelievable—was install his daughter in a room with
instructions to accept all men indiscriminately; she was not to
sleep with them, however, until she had got them to tell her the
cleverest and the worst things they had ever done in their lives.
(Waterfield/Dewald; three sentences)
While the translators render the passage into the
language and idiom of their respective times, Macaulay puts it all
in one long sentence, as the Greek text of Herodotus has it. The
different choices made by the translators are justifiable. The words
stews, house, brothel, and room, for
example, are different renderings of
οἴκημα, which admits
all these meanings. Careful reading of the selections above will
bring out other stylistic differences among the five translations.
Noteworthy is the abbreviated version by Rawlinson, who wrote in his
original edition, as noted by Thomas, that "occasional passages
offensive to modern delicacy have been retrenched, and others have
been modified by the alteration of a few phrases" (xxxvi)—Thomas
indicates that "those passages thought indelicate have been
reinserted" into Rawlinson's translation in her edition.
A short, abbreviated quotation from Book 7.39—the
words of an angry Xerxes—illustrates the level of formality adopted
by each translator. Rawlinson uses formal, literary, traditional
English: "Thou wretch! darest thou speak to me of thy son?"
Macaulay's choice of words is neutral: "Wretched man ... do you dare
to make any mention of a son of yours?" Grene's purpose is to use an
English that is "traditional, literary, and a little archaic" (31):
"Vile creature ... you dare to speak of your son?" Sélincourt/Marincola
uses a modern, literary style: "You miserable fellow ... have you
the face to mention your son?" Lastly, Waterfield uses contemporary
standard idiom: "Damn you! ... How dare you mention a son of yours?"
Thomas provides three footnotes to the folktale,
while Grene and Lateiner have none; Marincola has one endnote, keyed
to a footnote number on the page, rather than to the page of the
edition or the standard book and section divisions of Herodotus.
Dewald has one longish endnote, keyed to book and section; the
running header of the endnote section also helpfully gives the page
of the edition to which the footnotes refer.
Rawlinson/Thomas reprints a well-known
translation. With the briefest of the five introductions, no maps,
and notes dating to 1910, it offers few aids to the reader. Grene
provides a modern translation that succeeds in capturing Herodotus'
narrative of the spoken word; it offers fewer notes than
Rawlinson/Thomas and no bibliography, but includes eight maps.
Macaulay/Lateiner, Sélincourt/Marincola, and Waterfield/Dewald,
with fuller notes and other aids, are examples of how good modern
books can be produced by competing publishers.
Lateiner's Herodotus offers fewer annotations
than his edition of Thucydides, in this respect being outdone by the
142 pages of notes in Waterfield/Dewald, which make the latter the
most fully annotated of the books examined. Lateiner's chronological
table is strangely un-Herodotean, giving few dates and events for
Herodotus' early books dealing with Lydia, Assyria, Egypt, and
Persia. Marincola's chronology is fullest here, and best. The
strength of Grene's edition is in providing a very readable
traditionally literary translation. Only Grene and Lateiner include
battle maps, an odd and regrettable lacuna in the other editions of
what is, after all, a work culminating in two important military
campaigns whose major battles—Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and
Plataea—were historical turning points and have long been bywords
for courage, sacrifice, and historical consequence. Lateiner
furnishes a repertory of English translations of Herodotus, a
section on books, poems, and paintings inspired by Herodotus,
another of comments and questions, and an extensive bibliography
followed by two superbly detailed indices that make this much
the most useful edition for consulting The Histories in
English translation. Taken altogether, it provides serious readers
with a very accurate translation and a full array of useful
* * *
Lateiner's Thucydides, like Strassler's, uses a
lightly revised version of Richard Crawley's 1876 translation.
Warner (1954) and Lattimore (1997) offer new translations. A
selection from the famous passage (3.82) where Thucydides analyzes
how the corruption of moral values was manifested in the corruption
of words and public discourse illustrates the differences among the
had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now
given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a
loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was
held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a
question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the
attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of
self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always
trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. (Crawley/Lateiner)
in with the change of events, words, too had to change their usual
meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of
aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find
in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely
another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was
just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to
understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally
unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real
man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly
legitimate self-defence. Anyone who held violent opinions could
always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect.
self-justification men inverted the usual verbal evaluations of
actions. Irrational recklessness was now considered courageous
commitment, hesitation while looking to the future was high-styled
cowardice, moderation was a cover for lack of manhood, and
circumspection meant inaction, while senseless anger now helped to
define a true man, and deliberation for security was a specious
excuse for dereliction. The man of violent temper was always
credible, anyone opposing him was suspect. (Lattimore)
Warner's more expansive version uses modern idiom
to convey Thucydides' conclusions on the moral corruption of the
times. His translation is elegant, accurate, and very readable;
this, more than the now somewhat dated introduction and appendices
by M.I. Finley, is ample reason for the contemporary intelligent
reader to be glad of its continued availability. Crawley's fidelity
to the Greek original better serves the reader interested in a
closer reading of Thucydides as a classic text. While conveying
Thucydides' penetrating intellect, his translation better captures
Thucydides' antithetical style, use of contrasting and juxtaposed
nouns, and the severely incisive distillation of his moral judgment.
Lattimore's fresh translation (1997), the most
recent in English, takes into account scholarship unavailable to
Crawley in 1876 or Warner in 1954. For example, his translation of
the last clause in the penultimate sentence of the sited passage
provides a different sense from Crawley's and Warner's renderings.
In this he agrees with the interpretation given in A.W. Gomme's
indispensable Historical Commentary on Thucydides.
The Greek text, as Gomme explains, continues the passage's contrast
of opposing virtue and vice; this is what Lattimore translates. His
is a fine example of a careful, thoughtful attempt—even the best
translation can only be an attempt—to convey the meaning of the text
while doing justice to Thucydides' unique style.
Warner's edition provides few aids to the reader,
having, for example, no notes or comments at all on the whole of the
target passage (3.82). Neither does Strassler's edition, but
Lateiner provides nine separate footnotes of information, comment,
and analysis. Lattimore has two notes, one provides a
bibliographical reference, the other explains some matters of
phraseology, including the clause mentioned above. This illustrates
Lattimore's stated aim "to give the reader the most accurate
information possible about what is in the text" with the motivation
"to convey to the reader with little or no knowledge of Greek a
comparably accurate impression of Thucydides as an artist…" (xix).
Strassler's much-praised Landmark Thucydides
is a very handsome book, replete with maps, extensive
cross-references of biblical proportions, generous marginal
summaries, and running headers with book, chapter, chronological,
and narrative pointers. The edition includes a superb chronological
and geographical overview of the war in a twenty-page section
entitled "Theaters of Operation in the Peloponnesian War." Eleven
appendices by various American and British scholars follow,
providing the modern reader with very helpful background information
such as would be familiar to a knowledgeable fifth-century Greek.
The comprehensive and readable index, with each name, place, or
topic, each entry and subentry in a separate paragraph (separate
line), makes it easy to spot what one is looking for. Strassler's
index entry under speeches, for example, lists each speaker in a
separate line, with indented subentries for each of his speeches. In
short, The Landmark Thucydides sets a very high standard for
editorial judgment, attention to detail, and recognition of what
readers need, as translated into book design and layout, extending
to plentiful maps, cross-references, learned appendices, and other
aids. It is surely destined to live up to Strassler's proud
declaration that, like its original, it will become "a possession
for all time."
Lateiner's edition excels in its comprehensive
running analytical commentary. Notes or comments appear on almost
every single page, sometimes using almost half the page.
Lateiner's bibliography lists about five times as many items as
Strassler's edition. His introduction, like his abundant notes, is
the product of long reflection on his author. It provides more than
important background material to the Peloponnesian War and its
times; it is rather in itself a Thucydidean analysis of contrasting
approaches to the author and an informed assessment of the
historian's craft in general and of Thucydides' achievement in
particular, as well as his merits and defects. The virtuoso
introduction alone more than justifies this new edition. A
comprehensive index of names, places, and topics features subentries
listed in one paragraph and separated by commas.
Strassler's Landmark Thucydides has the
best layout and format as a physical book for the reader to hold,
read, use, and understand. It has by far the most and the best maps
and a detailed system of cross-references to both text and maps
which gives immediate assistance to the reader of any given passage
or section. Lattimore's translation merits and will reward close
reading by those interested to see how Thucydides' sometimes
difficult text is understood and rendered in a careful, contemporary
translation that aims to do justice to his language and his style,
while making use of modern research on Thucydides as a writer. Many
of his notes address matters of language, meaning, and style; others
provide historical commentary. Lateiner's Thucydides is the only one
with a detailed, almost a running, commentary, mostly historical,
and provides the best introduction and bibliography. Strassler takes
the reader into Thucydides' history and provides many aids to
reading his work, following the course of the war, visualizing where
it was fought, and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.
Lateiner takes the reader both into the history and outward to the
world of commentary; his profuse notes supply appropriate
supplementary information, as well as his own and other scholars'
views and assessments. No other one-volume edition of Thucydides
provides such abundant and thoughtful commentary. Its annotated,
carefully chosen bibliography draws the reader to further
investigation and reflection. At $9.95, this sturdily bound
paperback Thucydides, edited by a major scholar of the Greek
historians, fully achieves the stated goal of the Barnes & Noble
Classics series to offer "readers quality editions of enduring works
at affordable prices. Each edition presents new scholarship with
commentaries, viewpoints, chronologies, notes, and discussion
questions." In short, the publishers have made an outstanding choice
in Donald Lateiner to edit Herodotus and Thucydides. Both new and
experienced readers are sure to have a very satisfying journey
indeed who take along his excellent editions in their satchels.
* * *
University of Michigan—Dearborn
 Toronto: U Toronto Pr, 1989.
 Cambridge: Cambridge U Pr, 1997.
 Cambridge: Cambridge U Pr, 2000.
 Lateiner retains Crawley's original British
spellings, e.g., "defence." As indicated in his introduction
(xxx), Strassler Americanizes Crawley's spellings (so "defense"
here) and sometimes alters wording: hence, "loyal supporter" for
Crawley's "loyal ally" and "inability" for "inaptness" in the
 Specifically, vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford U Pr,
1956) ad loc.