The most recommended Herodotus books

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to Herodotus, and here are their favorite Herodotus books.
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Book cover of Jewel of Persia

Stephanie Landsem Author Of The Tomb: A Novel of Martha

From my list on bringing women of the Bible to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer who has traveled the world in real life and traveled through time in my research and imagination. In the past dozen years, I’ve researched historical women of the Bible for my own novels and have come to realize that women of the ancient world were much like women of today. Biblical women had dreams and fell in love. They worried about their children, politics, and the world around them. They wished for security and happiness just as we do. I have a special regard for historical fiction that brings these ancient women to life—honoring their lives and their struggles.

Stephanie's book list on bringing women of the Bible to life

Stephanie Landsem Why did Stephanie love this book?

This is a lesser-known gem of a novel that has all the hallmarks of excellence in historical fiction. Roseanna White does a brilliant job of weaving solid historical research into a captivating story. This is based on the book of Esther, but is also a compelling story of Xerxes, the Persian king that was her captor and husband. Richly drawn historical detail, page-turning action, and a cast of fascinating characters will keep you reading late into the night. 

By Roseanna M. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jewel of Persia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?
Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes' wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings.

Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they re not the Spartans or…


Book cover of The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others

Kathryn Lomas Author Of The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars

From my list on the ancient Mediterranean.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a lifelong fascination for history and archaeology. Following a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology (University of Edinburgh), and a brief period as a field archaeologist, I undertook a PhD (University of Newcastle) researching the history of Greek settlement in southern Italy. My subsequent career has been devoted to the study of ancient Italy and Sicily, with a specific focus on the development of ethnic and cultural identities, and the formation of urban societies. I have held posts at several UK universities, including research fellowships at UCL, a lectureship at the University of Newcastle, and I am currently a part-time lecturer and Honorary Fellow at the University of Durham.

Kathryn's book list on the ancient Mediterranean

Kathryn Lomas Why did Kathryn love this book?

The volume (the publication of a Cambridge lecture series) addresses one of the key themes of modern culture: the nature of identity. The question ‘what is a Greek?’ is not as straightforward as it seems, given that the Greek world was very diverse, and the book explores this by examining Greek culture as a series of polarities: Greek vs barbarian; free vs slave, citizen vs non-citizen; male vs female and gods vs humans. It traces how these polarities illuminate how the Greeks thought about themselves, and how we think about them.

Although aimed squarely at a student readership, it is an approachable introduction to the nature of Greek culture and reflection on questions of identity, difference, and belonging which are at the forefront of contemporary political and cultural debate.

By Paul Cartledge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greeks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides an original and challenging answer to the question: 'Who were the Classical Greeks?' Paul Cartledge - 'one of the most theoretically alert, widely read and prolific of contemporary ancient historians' (TLS) - here examines the Greeks and their achievements in terms of their own self-image, mainly as it was presented by the supposedly objective historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.

Many of our modern concepts as we understand them were invented by the Greeks: for example, democracy, theatre, philosophy, and history. Yet despite being our cultural ancestors in many ways, their legacy remains rooted in myth and the…


Book cover of The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Barry Cunliffe has time and again proved himself to gracefully weave serious scholarship with compelling reflection. As he does with his other books, he builds conclusions and raises questions based on the most recent archaeological evidence. The Scythians are greatly misunderstood, their legacy shaded by the often-disparaging views of their contemporaries. Barry Cunliffe’s archeological approach helps the Scythians speak through the things they left behind.

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scythians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south - the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks - and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the
Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from…


Book cover of Herodotus: The Persian War

David Hanna

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Teacher

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David Hanna Why did David love this book?

For those of us who have chosen to make our career in history, Herodotus is the "father" of our chosen profession. His seminal work, The Persian War, is as much or more about Persia as it is about his fellow Greeks. To be sure, much of this book is slow-going as Herodotus has a lot of "X the son of Y the son of Z" and so on, as well as a bewildering amount of archaic place names, and names of peoples and tribes. However, this book is history at its very best, examining the motivations behind key decisions, and going out of its way to provide multiple perspectives on events.

Herodotus discusses sources and emphasizes where these sources are contradictory. But on the important matters, he doesn't equivocate. He gives full credit to the Athenians for being the one city-state that never wavered, and for playing the most…

By Herodotus, William Shepherd (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Herodotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Selections from Herodotus' History which follow the events of the great war between the Greeks and the Persians. The translated extracts include Herodotus' descriptions of the preparations for war and of the great land- and sea-battles which took place. Linking commentaries explain Greek and Persian strategies and battle manoeuvres. Background information on the ships and on the soldiers fighting in the war is also given.


Book cover of The Station

Dana Facaros Author Of Northern Greece

From my list on evocative travel about Greece.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Greece 50 years ago, when I had the good fortune of spending a summer on my father’s native island of Ikaria. I bagged my first writing job four years later when I wrote a guide to all the Greek islands. As a travel writer I tend to fall in love with all the places I write about! But Greece is where I feel most at home, and it has inspired some truly memorable travel books. I hope you like some of my all-time favorites.

Dana's book list on evocative travel about Greece

Dana Facaros Why did Dana love this book?

As a woman, I’ll never be able to visit the fantastical Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos, although I’ve looked at from land and sea often enough! But after reading this evocative account from the 1920s by a very young Robert Byron (best known for his classic, The Road to Oxiana) I feel as if I had been there, in a completely other (and rather eccentric) world long before the monasteries’ current revival and modernization—they say the monks even have mobile phones these days! Byron’s black-and-white photographs and drawings add to the charm. 

By Robert Byron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Station as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mount Athos, the spiritual heart of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism, is perhaps the most sacred and mysterious place in Greece: an autonomous state, where no woman can set foot, which has its own calendar and its own time. This ruggedly beautiful peninsula in Macedonia boasts a history that stretches back to Herodotus and has been a sanctuary from the earliest days of Christianity, through the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, two world wars and up to the present day. In 1927, at the age of 22, Robert Byron journeyed to Athos with his friends and embarked on an adventure whose influence would…


Book cover of Hippocrates

Vivian Nutton Author Of Galen: A Thinking Doctor in Imperial Rome

From my list on Galen and Galenism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Vivian Nutton is an emeritus professor of the History of Medicine at UCL and has written extensively on the pre-modern history of medicine. He has lectured around the world and held posts in Cambridge and Moscow as well as the USA. His many books include editions and translations of Galen as well as a major survey of Greek and Roman Medicine, and he is currently writing a history of medicine in the Late Renaissance.

Vivian's book list on Galen and Galenism

Vivian Nutton Why did Vivian love this book?

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was Galen’s hero. This study by the leading expert in ancient Greek medicine sets his life and ideas in the wider context of life in the Aegean world of the fifth and fourth centuries BC.

By Jacques Jouanna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hippocrates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hippocrates, considered for more than two thousand years the father of medicine, came over time to be credited with a life of mythic proportions and an enormous body of work. Hippocrates' pronouncements on health, disease, and prognosis went unchallenged in the Western world until scientific advances in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made many of his ideas obsolete. And yet medical students in the United States and Europe still recite the Hippocratic oath upon completion of their studies. In view of Hippocrates' exceptional importance in the history of medicine, it may seem surprising that our knowledge of this fifth century…


Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland)

Steve P. Kershaw Author Of The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State

From my list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was introduced to the fascinating world of the Ancient Greeks by an inspirational teacher at my Primary School when I was about 10 years old—he read us tales of gods and monsters and heroes and heroism, and I was entranced. My grandpa bought me a copy of The Iliad. I read it with my torch under the bedclothes and embarked on a magical journey that has seen me spend the greater part of my life travelling in the world of the Ancient Greeks, both physically and intellectually. Those characters, both real and mythical, have become my friends, enemies, warnings, and role-models ever since.

Steve's book list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks

Steve P. Kershaw Why did Steve love this book?

Herodotus is a joy to read. In his Enquiries into the heroic struggle of Greece against the mighty Persian Empire, he wanted to preserve the memory of wondrous deeds. And he does it brilliantly. Along the way we discover how to catch a crocodile in Egypt, visit the walls of Babylon, and travel with the fearsome, gender-fluid, Scythian warriors. As the massed Persian armies with their arrogant and manipulative commanders bear down on the divided state of Greece, we are taken to battlefield of Marathon, witness the tenacious heroism of the 300 Spartans, and fight on the sea at the great Greek victory at Salamis. This epic conflict between the forces and ideals of East and West is rendered beautifully in Tom Holland’s fluent translation, which nimbly walks the line between accuracy and accessibility.

By Herodotus, Tom Holland (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Western history's greatest books springs to life in Tom Holland's vibrant new translation

Herodotus of Halicarnassus-who was hailed by Cicero as "the father of history"-wrote his histories around 440 BC. It is the earliest surviving work of nonfiction and a thrilling narrative account of (among other things) the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the fifth century BC.

With a wealth of information about ancient geography, ethnography, zoology, comparative anthropology, and much else, The Histories is also filled with bizarre and fanciful stories, which award-winning historian Tom Holland vividly captures in this major new…


Book cover of Travels with Herodotus

Gary Geddes Author Of Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas

From my list on for would-be travellers.

Why am I passionate about this?

After writing and editing fifty books and being the recipient of a dozen national and international literary awards, it’s obvious that I’m not so much a travel writer as a writer who travels a lot and is sometimes compelled to share what he discovers, or fails to discover, along the way. I’m not one of those “lonely tourists with their empty eyes / Longing to be filled with monuments,” that poet P.K. Page describes. I constantly ask myself: “What compels you to abandon the safety and comforts of home for the three Ds of travel: Danger, Discomfort, and Disease?” Itchy feet, insatiable curiosity, or the desire to step outside the ego and the routines of daily life? All of the above. I avoid the Cook’s Tour, travel light, and live on the cheap. 

Gary's book list on for would-be travellers

Gary Geddes Why did Gary love this book?

I admire the way this brilliant Polish journalist has been able to get inside the head of an ancient traveller and show us not only the incredible insights of this peripatetic predecessor, but also what travel really means. “A journey neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill.” Even more important, he offers one great truth about all writing, but especially history, that there is no truth with a capital T. “The subjective factor, its deforming presence will remain impossible to strain out . . . however evolved our methods, we are never in the presence of unmediated history, but history recounted, history as it appeared to someone, as he or she believes…

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Travels with Herodotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Travels with Herodotus records how Kapuscinski set out on his first forays - to India, China and Africa - with the great Greek historian constantly in his pocket. He sees Louis Armstrong in Khartoum, visits Dar-es-Salaam, arrives in Algiers in time for a coup when nothing seems to happen (but he sees the Mediterranean for the first time). At every encounter with a new culture, Kapuscinski plunges in, curious and observant, thirsting to understand its history, its thought, its people. And he reads Herodotus so much that he often feels he is embarking on two journeys - the first his…


Book cover of Meditations: The Annotated Edition

Donald J. Robertson Author Of Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

From my list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist. I am one of the founders of the Modern Stoicism nonprofit organisation and the president and founder of the Plato’s Academy Centre in Athens, Greece. I’ve published six books on philosophy and psychotherapy, mostly focusing on the Stoic philosophy and its relationship with modern psychology and evidence-based psychotherapy.

Donald's book list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius

Donald J. Robertson Why did Donald love this book?

This is the most recent translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, at the time of writing but I’m mainly including it because of Robin Waterfield’s very thorough annotations, which are invaluable when it comes to understanding some of the more obscure passages. They provide historical and philosophical context that’s otherwise missing and make it much easier to appreciate what Marcus was trying to say.

By Marcus Aurelius, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Meditations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the sixteenth emperor of Rome -- and by far the most powerful and wealthy man in the world. Yet he was also an intensely private person, with a rich interior life and deep reservoirs of personal insight. He collected his thoughts in notebooks, gems which have come to be called his Meditations. Never intended for publication, the work survived his death and has proved an inexhaustible source of wisdom and one of the most important Stoic texts of all time. In often passionate language, the entries range from essays to one-line aphorisms, and from profundity to…


Book cover of The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period

John O. Hyland Author Of Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE

From my list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated with ancient history since childhood, but really fell in love with the Achaemenids in college while taking classes on Greek history and wondering about the other side’s perspective on familiar stories of the Persian Wars. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study both Greek and Persian history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a leading center of scholarship on the Achaemenid world since the Persepolis excavations in the 1930s. Since 2006, I’ve taught in the History department at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts university in Newport News, Virginia. I’m currently working on my next book, a new history of Persia’s Greek campaigns. 

John's book list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors

John O. Hyland Why did John love this book?

The Persian empire’s size and diversity impose special challenges for modern study. The major sources are written in a wide variety of ancient languages, including Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and many texts were initially studied in specialist publications with limited accessibility outside a small circle of scholars. Kuhrt’s sourcebook did a tremendous service to scholars and students alike by gathering reliable translations of a wide range of written evidence from the Persian empire, replete with supporting notes and bibliography for further reading. It includes substantial selections from Greek historians of Persia, including Herodotus, Xenophon, and the Alexander biographers, but ensures that readers are able to contextualize these texts alongside internal materials reflecting the full diversity of Persian empire and society. 

By Amélie Kuhrt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Persian Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing together a wide variety of material in many different languages that exists from the substantial body of work left by this large empire, The Persian Empire presents annotated translations, together with introductions to the problems of using it in order to gain an understanding of the history and working os this remarkable political entity.

The Achaemenid empire developed in the region of modern Fars (Islam) and expanded to unite territories stretching from the Segean and Egypt in the west to Central Asia and north-west India, which it ruled for over 200 years until its conquest by Alexander of Macedon.…