Space-Travelling in Herodotus 5

Barker, Elton and Pelling, Chris (2016). Space-Travelling in Herodotus 5. In: Barker, Elton; Bouzarovski, Stefan; Isaksen, Leif and Pelling, Chris eds. New Worlds from Old Texts: Revisiting Ancient Space and Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 225–251.



In this chapter we integrate the data-capture and visualization results with more discursive and analytical approaches based on a close reading of Book 5. Book 5 begins by picking up the story of those ‘Persians whom Darius had left in Europe’, immediately locating the reader in a world that looks both forwards and backwards, recalling the high-level clash between East and West in the opening chapters, even as it seems to mark a decisive shift too in those relations—but in what way, and with what consequences for our understanding? The formalist question of the qualitative analysis—what counts as a proxy for a place?—can now be seen to mirror larger interpretative questions, especially regarding civic identity and ideology. Movement is another issue whose importance has already been identified by the previous two chapters: in the close textual analysis of chapter 9, movement can be seen as something of a running sore. The book begins with the forced movement of the Paeonians by the Persians; but even its more peaceable forms, such as immigration, can be equally destabilizing of categories, particularly when claims of autochthony are at stake (as in Athens). Thus Pelling and Barker suggest a more complex picture of East-West relations than a polarizing view allows: it is not that there is no division between Asia and Europe—after all, as Book 5 unwinds we see the battle-lines being drawn up; rather, the divisions are frequently temporary or partial or are subject to constant revision or challenge. The picture that emerges is of a world not rigidly and schematically divided into distinct territories—a model which Herodotus directly criticizes—but one that is interconnected in various ways on various levels at various times. The way Herodotus gets to his representation of war, on a meandering path that leads us through a series of overlapping and increasingly complex networks to depict a world in flux, challenges the notion of an abstract, mappable topography. Instead, it is in the realm of discursive narrative that readers might be better able to grasp the multi-dimensions of the space around them.

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