Herodotus Book 7 Discussion Questions
Dear fellow Herodotus readers,
Please feel free to use these questions to guide you through your reading. We will use these questions as jump-off points for our next discussion scheduled for Mon March 7, 2011.
The decision for the Persians to invade Greece is a highly significant one. Starting in Book 7, chapter 8, what are Xerxes’ reasons for doing so? Are they based on national security? personal revenge? tradition? anything else?
After Xerxes’ dreams convince the Persians to invade, does that make Mardonios’ reasons any stronger? Why or why not?
In chapters 27-29, Pythios voluntarily offers Xerxes a great amount of resources to help the war effort. Xerxes appreciates the offer, but becomes angry at Pythios soon after (38-39). Is Xerxes justified in doing so? Does this story, which surrounds Xerxes’ order to ‘punish’ the Hellespont, show Xerxes’ madness? wisdom?
The Ancient Greeks believed that “hubris” or ‘overweening pride’ would lead to a just punishment from the gods. In which instances in Book 7, does Herodotus show Xerxes’ “hubris?” In which instances is Xerxes prudent? How does Xerxes compare with his predecessor Darius in balancing “hubris” with prudence?
Before the crossing of the Hellespont, Xerxes and Artabanos have a dialogue that begins with the ‘shortness of human life’ (chs. 46-52). Both Xerxes and Artabanos have differing views on this and on the coming invasion of Greece. How does Xerxes justify his position vis-a-vis Artabanos? Given the situation and regardless of the outcome, do either Xerxes or Artabanos have the stronger argument?
Given Xerxes’ decision to allow the three captured Greek spies to see his whole Persian force (ch. 147), what is Xerxes’ strategy as he approaches Thermopylae? Even with the exiled Spartan king Demaratos’ advice, what does Xerxes nevertheless cling to as his military advantange? What advantage to the Greeks is Xerxes constantly overlooking? Why?
The Delphic oracle predicted for the Spartans that “either their city must be laid waste by the foreigner or a Spartan king be killed” (ch. 220). Was this the main reason Leonidas decided to remain at Thermopylae? What other reasons are there? Was the battle of Thermopylae militarily significant or merely symbolic?
What are your favorite stories from Book 7? Which, if any, have you heard about before in movies, books or popular media?