Herodotus among the Moderns
Suzanne Marchand is LSU Systems Boyd Professor of European Intellectual History at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. Marchand obtained her BA from UC Berkeley in 1984, and her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1992. She served as assistant and then associate professor at Princeton University before moving to LSU in 1999. She is the author of Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1870 (Princeton University Press, 1996) and German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Race, Religion, and Scholarship (Cambridge University Press, 2009). She is also the co-author of two textbooks: Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (W.W. Norton, 5th ed., 2017) and Many Europes (McGraw Hill, 2013). In 2013, she was appointed LSU Systems Boyd Professor, LSU’s highest honor.
There is perhaps no richer or stranger account of the past than Herodotus’ history of the Persian Wars, completed around 440 BCE and admired, reviled, and debated ever since. Already in antiquity, readers argued about the merits of his style and the accuracy of his facts. Could this Ionian busybody be trusted as a writer of history, and an interpreter of the ‘other’ cultures he purported to have studied? In the period after 1700, as Christian Humanists ransacked secular histories for Scripture-saving details and as European travelers flocked to Asia Minor with Herodotus in their knapsacks, Herodotus’ facts took on new functions, even as his ‘lies,’ too, spurred new ways of interpreting both ancient authorities and modern ‘oriental’ cultures and landscapes. Because The Histories offered extensive detail on the geography, ethnography, botany, and zoology, as well as histories, religions, monuments, and customs of the greater Mediterranean world, his works were regularly consulted by a wide range of European scholars (as well as painters, poets, and novelists), including Isaac Newton, Geoffrey St. Hilaire, David Livingstone, and Andrew Lang. Debates over his style, scholarly practices, and credibility raged, and proved formative for many modern disciplines. Herodotus among the Moderns aims to survey this material in eight chapters; at I Tatti, Prof. Marchand hopes in particular to dig into the materials on his reception in art.