Well of course I didn’t get the chance to read as much as I would have liked on my vacation last week. I did start and finish Rebecca Solnit’s Field Guide to Getting Lost which I will do a proper post on in the next day or so. I also finished Margaret Atwood’s The Door. I also read a little chunk of Herodotus. It’s The Histories I’m going to regale you with this evening.

One thing Herodotus does well for me is put things into perspective. For instance, back around 500 B.C., it was not a good time to be a girl.

  • When a Nasamonian man marries his first wife, the custom is for the poor woman to have sex with all the men at the wedding feast that night. Then the man gives her a gift. Hopefully the wedding feasts were small. And there is no mention about what the second wife has to do.
  • Women of the Gindanes wear anklets made of animal skin. For every man she has had sex with she gets to add a new anklet. The woman with the most anklets is “esteemed the best, since she has been loved by the greatest number of men.” Um, yeah.
  • The Auseans do not marry. The men can have sex with any woman they want. When a child of any of the women is old enough (not sure how old that is) he is brought before a meeting of the men where they all take a good look at him and decide who he most resembles. That lucky man is then considered the father of the child. Very scientific. Not to mention the incest possibility.
  • Crestonian men each have many wives. When a man dies the wives have a public competition to prove which one of them loved her deceased husband the most. The wife who proves her love is “honored” by receiving praise from all the men and women and then having her throat cut over her husband’s tomb by her nearest of kin. She then is buried with her husband. The remaining wives are “exceedingly grieved at it, for this is counted as the greatest reproach to them.” I wonder what the likelihood that some of the “exceedingly grieved” were faking it and were actually quite happy?

I’m about halfway through The Histories now and still have much to look forward to like the battle of Thermopylae.