Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes

Narrator: Catherine O’Brien

Publisher: Essential Audiobooks LLC (2017)

Length: 1 hour 43 minutes

Author’s Page

If you’ve ever tried to read Herodotus, then you know that most translations have a lot of repetition and ramble on a bit. Now Lorna Oakes gives us some great stories from Herodotus distilled down into thoughtful, sometimes action-packed, stories that will delight adults and entertain kids.

The book starts off with a little bit about Herodotus. He traveled extensively during his lifetime and wrote down historical events as best he could. Many of the events he wrote about happened generations before his time, so there’s bound to be some inaccuracies. Yet there’s a charm to his works as well. He made a grand attempt at recording the known world’s history and that account has survived to this day. All around, that is extraordinary. I, myself, have only read a bit of Herodotus but Oakes’s book makes it easy to absorb the essence of the tales Herodotus was trying to capture.

There’s 4 parts to this book. Part I is all about King Croesus in Lydia, which is in modern-day Turkey. He has a portentous dream and is concerned about his reign. I really like how he tested the various oracles. Very clever! Yet he then relies on the foretelling of the Delphi Oracle, misinterpreting the true meaning. Oakes does a great job here of just telling this tale, showing us how arrogance can color the meaning to any oracle riddle. It provides a great discussion point for adults and kids alike.

Part II is the Story of Cyrus. Part I flowed into Part II as both Cyrus and King Croesus are both influenced by the Delphi Oracle. This tale tells us how Cyrus came into power. It’s significant because Cyrus united two major families and became a significant Persian ruler. Cyrus was slated for death as a babe but he was saved by a cowherder and his wife. Later, of course, this is discovered and a reckoning must come out of it. I love that Oakes doesn’t leave out a rather bit of gruesome in this story. She doesn’t linger over it either and I feel it was essential to show motivation for one of the character’s vengeance.

Part III is about Herodotus’s time in Egypt. Of course, he visits the great pyramids and writes about how they were constructed. Herodotus gives us his version of how Psammeticus became king of the 26th dynasty of Egypt. This sections also includes the tale of King Apries and how he was overthrown by General Amasis and rebel forces. For me, it was the bits about the Great Pyramids that stood out most in this section.

Part IV is all about the Greeks and Persians. There’s some famous stories in this section, including the tale of Leonidas and how he and his small force repelled Xerxes’s army. This is a captivating story and the retelling of it here is well done. This section also includes the esteemed Greek physician Democedes. He was taken captive and bounced around a bit, sometimes as tribute. He ties Polycrates of Samos to the Persian king Darius.

All around, it’s a great collection of ancient tales based on Herodotus’s works. I love that Oakes has made these tales so accessible and I think this is a great way to introduce kids to ancient history.

I received a free copy of this book via Audiobook Boom!

The Narration: Catherine O’Brien did a great job with this book. There are several people and place names I had not heard pronounced before, so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but I can say she was consistent in her pronunciations all the way through. She was also great with portraying the emotions of the various characters. She sounded engaged and interested in the work all the way through.

What I Liked: Herodotus’s tales made easily accessible; great for kids and adults alike; great narration; lovely cover art; the tale of Leonidas; the Great Pyramids; testing the oracles; Cyrus as a cowherder’s son.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great bit of history and entertainment.