LIE: Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire.
TRUTH: Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire Persian Rug Emporium, which had unbeatable prices and dozens of locations in all twenty provinces.
LIE: Herodotus was exiled from Halicarnassus for political reasons.
TRUTH: Herodotus was exiled from Halicarnassus because he was one of those people who believes that frequent bathing disrupts the body’s natural pH balance.
LIE: Xerxes wanted to conquer Greece to avenge the Persian army’s defeat at Marathon.
TRUTH: Xerxes wanted to conquer Greece to prove to the Persians that he was still relevant at the ancient age of thirty-six.
LIE: The messenger at Marathon ran 26.2 miles to deliver news of Greece’s victory, before keeling over dead from exhaustion.
TRUTH: The messenger ran only 2.62 miles, but he was so sweaty and out of breath that everyone assumed he had travelled a great distance. He faked his death to avoid correcting them.
LIE: Each book of Herodotus’s Histories is named for one of the nine Muses.
TRUTH: Each book of Herodotus’s Histories is named for one of his nine Pomeranians.
LIE: The Greeks’ weapon of choice was the spike-topped doru spear.
TRUTH: The Greeks carried no weapons, decimating their enemies with withering stares and cutting remarks instead.
LIE: The Lydian king Croesus frequently consulted the oracle at Delphi when formulating his military strategy.
TRUTH: The Lydian king Croesus frequently consulted the oracle at Delphi when formulating his bets on chariot races. He lost his massive fortune after an ambiguous prophecy: “If Croesus goes to the hippodrome, he will destroy a great financial empire.”
LIE: At the Battle of Thermopylae, seven thousand Greek and Spartan soldiers held off a million Persians for a week.
TRUTH: At the Battle of Thermopylae, seven thousand Greek and Spartan soldiers held off a hundred and fifty thousand Persians for three days. Talk about bush-league.
LIE: Herodotus lived in the bustling Greek metropolis of Athens.
TRUTH: Herodotus spent four bored months in the suburbs of Athens, rarely venturing into the city proper, which he called “a little dicey.”
LIE: The happiest people in the world were Kleobis and Biton, two brothers who yoked themselves to their mother’s cart like oxen and drove her six miles to temple.
TRUTH: The happiest person in the world was the neighbor girl who insisted on slathering the boys in olive oil before their journey.
LIE: The fifty-year-long Greco-Persian Wars were waged over control of the land surrounding the Aegean Sea.
TRUTH: The fifty-year-long Greco-Persian Wars were waged over credit for inventing spanakopita.
LIE: The Spartan prince Dorieus left his homeland in a rage after his half brother, Cleomenes, ascended the throne.
TRUTH: The Spartan prince Dorieus left his homeland in a rage after seeing so many grown men wearing sandals year-round.
LIE: Herodotus’s Histories is a work of nonfiction.
TRUTH: Herodotus originally pitched Histories to publishers as a “mind-blowing epic fantasy nonology” called “Fates & Phalanxes.” When nobody bit, he tweaked the title and genre.
LIE: Herodotus is the father of history.
TRUTH: Herodotus is history’s sketchy uncle.