East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth


220px-Herodotos_Met_91.8This guy here on the right is Herodotus.
Or an acceptable likeness thereof – a Roman copy of a Grecian bust.
The Romans loved Herodotus – and according to Cicero he was the Father of history.
To me, he’s a fun read, and also the first stop for me when I decide to write a new Aculeo & Amunet story.

The Histories of Herodotus provide a wonderful collection of facts, hearsay and speculation about the Ancient World…

This is the display of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each other.

Herodotus’ main concern were the Greco-Persian wars, and I admit I always loved the way his Histories begin…

According to the Persians, it was all the Phoenicians’ fault

And I like it both because it’s so easy and almost chatty in tone, and because it shows that Herodotus did his homework: he checked the Persian’s sources.
And if the Old Man’s reliance on travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth is the basis of a lot of biases, imprecision and plain old lies cropping up in the Histories, well, that’s part of the charm of the book.
And what the heck, he was the first, he was inventing history as we know it – let’s give the guy some leeway.


Now, I think I already mentioned that my main historical resource when writing Aculeo & Amunet is the 12th volume of Cambridge Ancient History, Second Edition: The Crisis of Empire, a.d. 193–337.
You can’t fail with the Cambridge massive volumes.
And of course I do check a number of other books and websites.
But Herodotus provides the bottom line, the history as my characters know it, the past from which arise the magic, monsters and treasures that are the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of Aculeo and Amunet’s adventures.
I can really open the Histories at a random page, and find an inspiration for a future adventure of my heroes.
Then, yes, there’s the small matter of writing the story.
But a nice stroll through Herodotus’ collection of travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth is always a good start.

5100SMZm8ZL._SX301_BO1,204,203,200_And in case you are curious, you can find various free translations of Herodotus’ Histories out there on the web:

. in two volumes, in various formats, on Project Gutenberg: Volume 1 & Volume 2
. or in a nice annotated version from the 1920s, in pdf format (the one I keep handy on my desktop when I am writing)
. or as a free audiobook through LibriVox

And if you are looking for a hardcopy edition, I think I’d recommend the Everyman Library’s version – true, it goes for twenty bucks, but it lasts forever, it’s a great read and a beautiful book,
If you’re cheap like me or if you need a copy to carry in your backpack while hiking, the Wordsworth Classics paperback edition will hit you for less than six bucks.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

5 thoughts on “Travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth

  1. I’ve done a fair bit of research into ancient Rome (for a backburner project) and love that time period (ok, so it’s a loooong time period – I’m meaning specifically the 400ADs.)

    Might have to check out ol’ Herodotus’ works.


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