The Sophomores are reading the Histories by Herodotus this week and I was reminded of a great essay by Dorothy Sayers called A Vote of Thanks to Cyrus. “I owe a certain debt to Cyrus the Persian,” she begins.
“I made his acquaintance fairly early, for he lived between the pages of a children’s magazine, in a series entitled Tales from Herodotus, or something of that kind. He belonged quite definitely to classical times; did he not overcome Croesus, that rich king of whom Solon had said, “Call no man happy until he is dead”? The story was half fairy tale –”his mother dreamed,” “the oracle spoke”– but half history too: he commanded his soldiers to divert the course of the Euphrates, so that they might march into Babylon along the riverbed; that sounded like practical warfare. Cyrus was pigeonholed in my mind with the Greeks and Romans. So for a long time he remained. And then, one day, I realized, with a shock as of sacrilege, that on that famous expedition he had marched clean out of our Herodotus and slap into the Bible.”