Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars

By Jon D. Mikalson

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 5 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7288-8
    Published: February 2012
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6201-8
    Published: July 2004

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The two great Persian invasions of Greece, in 490 and 480-79 B.C., both repulsed by the Greeks, provide our best opportunity for understanding the interplay of religion and history in ancient Greece. Using the Histories of Herodotus as well as other historical and archaeological sources, Jon Mikalson shows how the Greeks practiced their religion at this pivotal moment in their history.

In the period of the invasions and the years immediately after, the Greeks--internationally, state by state, and sometimes individually--turned to their deities, using religious practices to influence, understand, and commemorate events that were threatening their very existence. Greeks prayed and sacrificed; made and fulfilled vows to the gods; consulted oracles; interpreted omens and dreams; created cults, sanctuaries, and festivals; and offered dozens of dedications to their gods and heroes--all in relation to known historical events.

By portraying the human situations and historical circumstances in which Greeks practiced their religion, Mikalson advances our knowledge of the role of religion in fifth-century Greece and reveals a religious dimension of the Persian Wars that has been previously overlooked.

About the Author

Jon D. Mikalson is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia. His books include Athenian Popular Religion, Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy, and Religion in Hellenistic Athens.
For more information about Jon D. Mikalson, visit the Author Page.


"A model of scholarship, yet one which can be profitably used by a variety of readers. . . . It deserves to be on every classicist's bookshelf."--New England Classical Journal

"The complexity of the subject matter . . . result[s] in more than a case-in-point study of Greek Religion as practiced in context. . . . Written in Mikalson's usually lucid, lively, and unassuming style. . . . The implications of the author's approach are significant and are not confined to the study of Herodotus."--International Journal of Classical Tradition

"Learned and informative. [Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars] is also characterized throughout by good sense, a circumstance due…in no small measure by the author's rejection of the Liar School of Herodotus."--Les Etudes Classiques

"Jon Mikalson's book will surely prove an invaluable resource for any student working in the area of Herodotus, Greek religion, or the Persian War period. Rigorous in the standards it applies to the study of this complex subject, it makes a fine addition to the oeuvre of a leading exponent of Greek religion."--Robert Garland, Colgate University