Herodotus Books 4 & 5 Discussion Questions

Dear fellow Herodotus readers,
I am thoroughly enjoying the accounts of Persian expansion and contact with the Greeks in Book 4.  Book 5 has the special treat of describing the birth of democracy in Athens, somehow ironically nurtured in part by surrounding tyrannies.  Oracles, intrigue, and seemingly eyewitness accounts all flavor Book 5.  Darius is still on the Persian throne, but the limits of Persian influence are being tested.
Here are some questions for you to ponder as you make your way through books 4 & 5 in preparation for our next conference call, which will take place on Monday, January 10, 2011.  As always, feel free to email the group or blog a comment on our website if you like.
happy reading and happy holidays,

Herodotus Discussion Questions – Books IV & V

1.  Greek coastal colonies on the Black Sea and northern Aegean may have had substantial contact with the Scythians during and prior to Herodotus’ time.  His account (4.1-82) shows similarities and differences between Greeks and Scythians.  What similarites struck you as particularly significant?  What differences?

2.  As invaders, the Persians are considered a formidable foe.  In Book IV, how does Darius carry out the declaration of war against the Scythians?  What is Darius really after?  How do the Scythians and their neighbors prepare for the Persian invasion?  What might Herodotus be foreshadowing with respect to the eventual Persian invasion of Greece?

3.  What is the reason for Persia to invade Scythia?  Libya?  What does Persia stand to gain by invading Lybia?  To what extent are Greeks on both sides involved in this invasion?

4.  Given that Ionians were willingly helping Darius in his invasion of Scythia in Book IV, what are the conditions that lead to their revolt in Book V?  What contrast between Greece and Persia might Herodotus be trying to point out in 4.144 when Megabazos subjugates the Hellespont?  At what point in either Book IV or Book V would you say the spark of animosity is lit between Greece and Persia?

5.  What does Herodotus reveal about the state of Greek city-state politics in Book V, especially between Sparta and Athens?  What role does democracy play in relations between Greek city-states?  What dilemma does Sparta find itself in regarding democracy?  What do other Greek city-states think about the rise of democracy in Athens?

6.  In earlier books, Herodotus included different female types.  Do you see a pattern so far in the book in how Herodotus represents women in his narrative?

7.  What are your favorite stories, anecdotes or digressions from Books IV & V?

15. December 2010 by astipanovic
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