september 2020

15sep7:00 pm9:15 pmHerodotus, History, and Telling Stories About the PastSIX-MEETING VIRTUAL STUDY7:00 pm - 9:15 pm VIRTUALType Of Study:Literature,PhilosophyFrequency:WeeklyDuration:Six Weeks

Event Details

Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques Louis David, 1814

Why do we want to know about what happened in the past? How sure can we be about what happened? And, how sure do we need to be?

The first great historian in the Western intellectual tradition, Herodotus sets out, he tells us, to relate not only what has happened in the past, but to give us an explanation of why. In the case of his Histories, Herodotus enquires into the long history of enmity between the Persian empire and the city-states of the Greek mainland, starting in the 560s BCE and culminating in a massive Persian invasion of mainland Greece by the great King Xerxes in 480 BCE. Herodotus has a capacious sense of causation, and his history blends politics, morality, personal anecdote, geography, ethnographic research and comparative religion—all in the voice of a charming, open-minded and most-entertaining raconteur.

The invasion by Xerxes, and a prior attempt by his predecessor Darius ten years earlier, was a momentous event in Greek history. It threatened the freedom of the Greek city-states and helped to forge a united Greek identity. Herodotus is our primary source for stories of the famous battle of Marathon, the heroic defense of Thermopylae by Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, and the great naval battles at Artemisium and Salamis. The Greco-Persian Wars described by Herodotus set in motion the forces that led to the long Peloponnesian Wars waged between Athens and Sparta later in the 5th century. We read Herodotus for the events he relates for us, and even more for the fundamental questions he raises about how we understand the forces that shape our world.

This six-meeting study will be read-as-we-go: we’ll read roughly one-sixth of The Histories each week.


  • Facilitated by Mark Cwik
  • Tuesday evenings 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm
  • Six-meeting study, 15 September to 20 October 2020
  • Online discussions using Zoom meeting interface. Zoom is free for participants, instructions will be sent upon registration.
  • Recommended edition:

    • The Histories, by Herodotus; translated by Tom Holland, with introduction and notes by Paul Cartledge; Penguin Classics (2014); ISBN: 978-0140455397
  • £150 for six-week study, includes notes and questions for preparation.

TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £150.

ABOUT THE FACILITATOR: Mark Cwik has been organizing and leading great books discussion groups for adults for over twenty years in London, Chicago and Toronto. He specializes in literature from the ancient, mythic and religious world. He was trained as a discussion facilitator while at the Great Books Foundation in Chicago and has been a passionate advocate for great books education since attending St. John’s College, Santa Fe and the University of Chicago Basic Program in Liberal Education.

“I’ve been coming to Mark’s discussion groups for about 15 years . . . Mark is amazing in his ability to keep the group functioning smoothly. He asks questions that get to the heart of the piece and he keeps the group focused on those questions. You don’t feel that he’s trying to steer us to any conclusion; he’s in it with us to figure out what the author is saying. He makes everyone feel welcome and their opinions are respectfully heard. He’s always prepared and totally dedicated to advancing our understanding of the great books.” — group participant.

If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.