Herodotus Book One Reader Call, 11/17/10 (Bruce’s group)
Dear fellow readers,
Thanks for your participation and questions last night during our discussion of Book I. It was a great call, I thought, and we learned a lot from each other about the roles of fate and prophecy in the stories of Croesus, the Median Kings and the rise (and fall) of Cyrus. Alan also did some terrific research proving just how inaccurate Herodotus was in his measure of the walls of Babylon. Fifty percent more surface area than the Great Wall of China? I don’t think so!
You can listen to the call by clicking the play button above.
Study guide questions for Books 2 & 3 are below, which we will use as discussion anchor points on our next conference call scheduled for Monday December 6. Until then, share your thoughts and questions with us on email and I look forward to our next discussion.
Books 2 & 3 Discussion Questions
1. Book 2 – Consider this remark: “As Herodotus introduces his long digression on Egypt with a reference to the conquest of the Greeks (c. I. 2), so he skillfully concludes with a similar reference.” (How & Wells, p. 256)
How relevant is this comment to the Persians’ eventual invasion of Greece? Even with a satisfactory observation, one may still be wondering ‘what does Book 2 have to do with the Persian invasion of Greece?’ Thoughts?
2. Let’s look at the claim of Herodotus’ Hellenocentric point of view. What do Herodotus’ observations tell about Herodotus as a Greek? Are his observations an attempt to re-define Egypt according to Greek culture? or is Herodotus too much influenced by Egyptian culture to make accurate statements in his History?
3. Book 3 – The rise and fall of Cambyses – How does Herodotus measure the sanity of Cambyses? How does Cambyses take advice and counsel in comparison with his precedessor Cyrus? What does Herodotus mean by “custom is king of all” (3.38.4)?
4. Book 3 – The rise of Darius – How should we view the transfer of power from Cambyses to Darius? Is this a monarchy? despotism? tyranny? oligarchy?
5. Book 3 – Darius and Democedes (3.129) – What does this story show about Darius’ encounter with the Greeks? What does this story have to do with the story that ends Book 3, i.e. Zopyrus and the fall of Babylonia to Darius?