THOMAS R. MARTIN. Herodotus and Sima Qian: The First Great Historians of Greece and China – A Brief History with Documents. (Bedford Series in History and Culture.) Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Pp. 153. $19.99. Paperback. ISBN: 9780312416492.
Herodotus and Sima Qian is a brief, comparative, and cross-cultural analysis of the lives and major works of two ancient writers whom author Thomas Martin believes to be “the first great historians” of the Eastern and Western worlds. These two writers are Herodotus of classical Greece (ca. 484 – ca. 414 BCE), known for writing the Histories around 450 BCE, and Sima Qian of early imperial China (ca. 145 – ca. 86), known for writing The Records of the Historian around 109 BCE. Herodotus was a Greek storyteller from the Persian-controlled town of Halicarnassus in southwestern Turkey. He wrote his 30-scroll Histories about the rise of the Persian Empire in the region of modern Iran, and the Greco-Persian Wars that occurred between an alliance of Greek city-states and the Archaemenid dynasty. Herodotus wrote this narrative after his family was exiled to mainland Greece. By contrast, Qian was a privileged son from Xiayang, a village near modern Hancheng in the Shaanxi province of China. He became the Grand Astrologer and then Palace Secretary to Emperor Wu from the Han dynasty of a unified China. He took over writing The Records from his dying father as a private project of filial honor. He suffered castration and disgrace as a result of his dedication to the work.