Herodotus Book 6 Discussion Questions
Dear fellow readers,
Here are the discussion questions for Book 6, which you can use to help stimulate your thinking as you read for our next discussion (scheduled for Mon Feb 7.
As you can see in our questions below, Book 6 presents many interesting stories about Greek society before leading up to the climactic battle at Marathon. Sparta gets special treatment here in Book 6 (even though they don’t make it to the battle!).
Enjoy the read,
Herodotus Book Six Discussion Questions
1. In Book VI ch. 30, Histiaeus’ end at the hands of Artaphrenes and Harpagos is related in gruesome but cursory fashion: “they took him to Sardis and there hanged him from a stake. But they embalmed his head and brought it to King Darius in Susa” (p. 437). Just prior to this remark, Herodotus himself tells the reader that in his opinion “if, after being captured alive, Histiaeos had been taken to Darius, I suppose that Darius would have forgiven him for his offense and that he would have suffered no harm” (437). Knowing what we know about Darius in the Histories, would that be an accurate prediction? Why does Herodotus feel this way and what evidence from earlier in our reading could support his assertion?
2. In chs. 51-55, Herodotus digresses on the origins of the Spartan dual kingship. He comments on both the Spartan version and the common Greek traditional version. What are we to make of the story? Is Herodotus favoring one or the other? Are there other versions deliberately not mentioned by Herodotus? Why does Herodotus suddenly proclaim: “let that be the extent of what is said on this topic” (449)?
3. In ch. 84, Herodotus presents various views on the Spartan king Kleomenes’ madness and eventual death. After presenting the Argive and Spartan explanations, Herodotus claims: “For myself, I think that the best explanation is that Kleomenes was punished for his treatment of Demaratos” (460). What does this say about Herodotus’ judgment? Is he taking sides or does he have justification, according to his evidence, that his assertion has credence? What does this remark say about Herodotus’ regard for history in general?
4. Herodotus uses 94 chapters to set the stage for one of the most important battles in history. Given the actual details of the battle, why does Herodotus not go into more detail about the individuals and events on the battlefield? How does Herodotus contrast the Athenians to the Persians in this conflict? How is Sparta compared/contrasted with Athens? Persia??
5. Ch. 121 just seems to leap out of nowhere. After a description of the battle of Marathon and Sparta’s late arrival, Herodotus seems eager to address the veracity of Alkmeonid treachery against Athens: “I am astonished by that story about the Alcmeonids” (478). He then goes on to elaborate on the Alcmeonid clan, seemingly making an appeal for them, through chapter 131. How convincing is his defense? Why does Herodotus make this appeal here? What sort of tensions are betrayed in Herodotus’ words that show the movement between myth and history, fact and fiction?