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An Account of Egypt by Herodotus
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An Account of Egypt

by Herodotus

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Herodotus (circa 484 BC – c. 425 BC) is the Greek historian who has been called the "Father of History," or the "Father of Lies" accordingly - either way he was the first known writer of history to do so in a truly systematic way, weaving his relatively accurate historical hypotheses into a coherent and vibrant narrative. We know very little of his actual life, except that he was born in what is now Turkey, traveled extensively to collect materials for his writings, and finally settled down in southern Italy to write the Histories. The title the "Father of Lies" has clung to Herodotus for ages, as he's prone to exaggeration and speculation, but to his credit he does warn the reader when he's going out on a limb. And when he has two versions of a story, he offers both. Herodotus is also known for his easy and flowing prose style, which is still a joy to read to this day. His Histories have done more to shape our view of the ancient world than any other.

Herodotus's Account of Egypt is the second book of the Histories, which contains descriptions of the marvels of the south: the size of the land, the wonders of the Nile, the religious ceremonies which will be as fascinating to the modern reader as it was to the ancient. From the priests at Memphis, Heliopolis, and the Egyptian Thebes he learned what he reports of the size of the country, the wonders of the Nile, the ceremonies of Egyptian religion, their sacred animals, the Crocodile and the Phoenix, their funerals and embalming, lotus and papyrus eating, the great kings and queens, and of the pyramids. Keep in mind that to Herodotus and the ancient Greeks, Egypt essentially was Africa - primitive maps show an ocean on all sides of the mysterious land to the south; so to understand this place was to know much of the world.

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