Shaping the Geography of Empire

Clarke,  Katherine . 2018. Shaping the Geography of Empire: Man and Nature in Herodotus’ Histories. Oxford University Press.

This is a book about the multiple worlds that Herodotus creates in his narrative. The constructed landscape in Herodotus’ work incorporates his literary representation of the natural world from the broadest scope of continents right down to the location of specific episodes. His ‘charging’ of those settings through mythological associations and spatial parallels adds further depth and resonance. The physical world of the Histories is in turn altered by characters in the narrative whose interactions with the natural world form part of Herodotus’ inquiry, and add another dimension to the meaning given to space, combining notions of landscape as physical reality and as constructed reality. Geographical space is not a neutral backdrop, nor simply to be seen as Herodotus’ ‘creation’, but it is brought to life as a player in the narrative, the interaction with which reinforces the positive or negative characterizations of the protagonists. Analysis of focalization is embedded in this study of Herodotean geography in two ways—firstly, in the configurations of space contributed by different viewpoints on the world; and secondly, in the opinions about human interaction with geographical space which emerge from different narrative voices. The multivocal nature of the narrative complicates whether we can identify a single ‘Herodotean’ world, still less one containing consistent moral judgements. Furthermore, the mutability of fortune renders impossible a static Herodotean world, as successive imperial powers emerge. The exercise of political power, manifested metaphorically and literally through control over the natural world, generates a constantly evolving map of imperial geography.