Guess what folks? Ancient history has one of them too. His name was Herodotus.
Who is this guy?
Herodotus was kicking around in 5th century BC Athens, though he was actually born in Halicarnassus, which is in modern day Turkey. Here is a picture of him.
There are many, many library statues of Herodotus today.
He was the first person to gather together a 'history' in prose (if we include the Homeric epic poems as 'histories'), in a reasonably systematic manner. This was no mean feat, and probably the work of a lifetime. Herodotus supposedly travelled all over the Greek world, going to Egypt and Sythia and asking for their stories. Unfortunately, these claims are looking more and more tenuous as we learn more about these places from other sources.
What did he write about?
Herodotus claimed to be writing so that 'human events do not fade with time. May the great and wonderful deeds- some brought forth by Greeks, others by the barbarians- not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other' - proem, Histories. In practise, this was chiefly the Graeco-Persian Wars (you may remember them from such films as The 300 Spartans and 300).
However, 'Histories' in Greek means 'Enquiries', and as well as a history, Herodotus' work is also also ethnography, geography, zoology and general interest. Herodotus was actually very scrupulous by the standards of his day; but unfortuntely, our standards of what comprises history and myth have altered somewhat, and now poor Herodotus' work looks quite ridiculous indeed.
Here are some of his best* stories:
Kandaules and his wife (1.8-12)
Kandaules, king of Lydia, we are told, was a very lucky man indeed: he was in love with his wife, and he thought her the most beautiful woman in the world. All well and good. Unfortunately, he was pretty certain his bodyguard Gyges didn't really believe him about this. Naturally the solution was for Kandaules to arrange for Gyrges to spy on his wife while she was undressing, so that he would truly appreciate the wonder of her naked form. Yes, you did read that right.
Gyges initially refused, saying "I beg you not to ask for what is against all decency." But Kandaules was king, and he could have whatever he wanted, so the plan was arranged. Gyges got to play the peeping tom and agreed, she was really, really attractive. But the story doesn't end here. The queen found out about all this, and decided to take her revenge.
Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, As She Goes to Bed by William Etty.
So, in turn, she went to Gyges, and offered him a choice. He had seen her naked, which was a great dishonour. Either he must die, or must kill her husband (the king), marry her and become king himself. I think we all know what we would have done in that situation. Kandaules died, Gyges became king and about four generations later, the gods saw fit to punish his offspring. Seems legit.
Herodotus describes the hippopotamus, which he saw on his travels in Egypt. 'This animal has four legs, cloven hoofs like an ox, a snub nose, a horse's mane and tail, conspicuous tusks, a voice like a horse's neigh, and is about the size of a very large ox. Its hide is so thick and though that when dried it can be made into spear-shafts' - 2.73 Histories
Uh... yeah. Looks totally like a hippo.
There are several schools of thought that say that Herodotus never actually went to Egypt. This is definitely in their favour. It is commonly thought that Herodotus took this description from Heceateus of Miletus, and probably neither of them ever saw a hippo, which were extinct in the Nile region by this time anyway. The only other description from Antiquity is the one from Job 40.10, which is equally bad.
Alexander, the Persians and a certain amount of cross-dressing (5.18- 5.21)
No, I didn't just fail on my history. Alexander the Great (who did go to Persia, kill an awful lot of Persians, and began wearing something as effeminate as trousers) was Alexander III of Macedon. This was one of this predecessors, and only a prince when all this happened. Alexander the Great comes quite a bit later.
In the Graeco-Persian war, the Macedonians capitulated to Persia. Tactically, this was probably the best thing they could have done; had they fought back they would have been on their own (no Sparta or Athenian help; they weren't considered 'Greek' enough), and without any major defences or allies. As was the norm, King Darius of Persia asked for an offering of earth and water. The ageing king, Amyntas, agreed, and threw a large banquet to celebrate.
Only men were present at this banquet, as was the Macedonian custom, but the Persians demanded that women be brought out for them to admire. They claimed to be dazzled by the beauty of the women, and got pretty handsy.
Amyntas was pretty distressed about all this, and his son Alexander was livid. Alexander sent his father to bed (plausible deniability) and then set about getting even. He told the Persians he was sending the women out to bathe before sending them to bed with them (presumably without the women's consent). The Persians were incredibly drunk by this point. Alexander sent the women off and found some young men without beards, dressed them in women's clothing, and equipped each one with a dagger. He then sent them back in.
When the Persians tried to touch the new "women", they were set upon and all of them stabbed to death. Somehow, mostly by bribes, the inquest into this found no guilt on the part of the Macedonians.
This story is all very dubious indeed; it is far more likely to be a retrospective invention to justify their banquet with the Persians after the Greeks had been the victors.
*Note, there are many, many bizarre and amusing stories from Herodotus. If someone told you one that's not in this list, it's probably in there anyway. The only exception is the flying snakes, (bet Samuel L. Jackson would have loved those) which are commonly attributed to Herodotus but which are actually from Lucan.