“Travels with Herodotus” by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Just finished the book by Mr. Kapuscinski and was not overly enthralled!

The book has an interesting approach to Herodotus’ “Histories”, by comparing Herodotus journey 2,000+ years ago to that of Ryszard’s travels through China, north Africa and India in the 1960s.

Ryszard covers the expected, including the Greek city-states, Darius and Xerxes and the reign of the Persian empire, the battle of Thermopylae and the 300-strong Greek defiance and the Persian’s battles with the Scythians.

A few interesting take-aways:

– I enjoyed this transcendental quote: “We are, all of us, pilgrims who struggle along different paths towards the same destination. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

– The relationship between the pantheon of Greek gods, customs and rituals and to that of ancient Egypt. The seemingly undeniable relationship that a good portion of the Greek belief system stems from that Nile river based society.

– Ryszard’s references to Dostoevsky and the phenomenon of pointless cruelty…whether on the battle field, past the bridge at Hellespont during Darius’ retreat or in Stalin’s Russia and the gulags.

– The Greeks, who at the time, were the most democratic and free thinking people on earth. Yet, the city-states of Sparta and Athens failed to jell. The chosen leader, Themistocles, ruled over divided bands of quarrelsome petty tribes and could not get along with other greeks and as a result suffered causalties from his own kind.  Greece was almost over-run by the 5m strong Persian army led by Xerxes, the king-god.

– Popular movement of Negritude in Paris in the 1930s. Authored by two poets, Leopold Senghor and Aime Cesaire, this promulgated black pride during the early 20th century during colonial strife and third world identify formation. The advocacy of this awakening can be traced through the writings of Sartre, Camus and Davidson in Europe. Senegal in the 1960s (1963 in Darkar was the inaugural) threw a big festival that celebrated its independence with the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Negres.

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