Look for the ‘history’

Dear fellow Herodotus readers,
Herodotus was not the first person to write about past events; he was not even the first Greek to write about past events.  However, he seems to be the first to write “historia” (i.e. “researches”) that went beyond a particular Greek city-state and even incorporated events outside of the Greek world.  My latest reading alongside our Herodotus book is called Persia and the Greeks written by A. R. Burn, in which he assesses Herodotus with the other written evidence we have from the 1st millenium B.C. period (i.e. Babylonian tablets, Old Testament etc.).  Herodotus’ work still stands as a primary source.
As you read through Book I, note how Herodotus sifts through legend and myth and presents what we define now as history.  His digressions are interesting and show that his audience still preferred traditional storytelling, while he also inserts a new historical narrative.  We’ll talk more about this and Book I in general on Monday September 10 on our conference call.  This week I will ask a few of you to take on a question (see below) to introduce to our discussion.  It is just your observations and comments, no research needed.
In the meantime, send out your questions to the group.  You might also want to start reading ahead in Book II (Egypt), just to take a bite out of our next reading for next month, since it is a sizable chunk.
Andre Stipanovic
Book I
The role of prophecy is very prominent in these chapters.
1.  What part does an oracle play in the story of Candaules and Gyges?  How is a curse associated with it?
2. How does Croesus’ dream about his son Atys become prophetic?  Why does Croesus accept Adrastus so warmly?
3. How does Croesus read the Delphic oracles?  What is he not understanding and why?  When does he understand Solon’s earlier words of advice to him?
4.  In chapters I.95-106, how does the story of the first Median ruler set the example for Median rulers to follow?  According to Herodotus, what common theme seems to characterize the line of Median kings up to and including Astyages?
(Kings of the Medes:  Deiokes, Phraortes, Cyaxares, [Scythian occupation], Cyaxares regains authority, Astyages)
5.  In chapters I. 107-130, how does Cyrus’ origin and upbringing compare to the line of Median kings before him?  Why do you suppose Cyrus seems destined to attain supreme control over the Medes with his Persians?  What main factors, according to Herodotus, contribute to this outcome?
6.  As Persian armies under Cyrus’ command spread out through Asia Minor, they come into contact with various peoples, cities, and nations.  How do negotiations with Ionia result?  Why are the Ionian cities so vulnerable to Persian attack?  What is so significant about the Sardis revolt and suppression?  Why is it placed in the middle of the stories and events connected with Herodotus’ description of Ionia?
7.  According to Herodotus in I. 177-200, what impresses him the most about Babylon?  Why?
8.  In the final chapters of Book I, Cyrus meets his match in Queen Tomyris.  In this conflict, Croesus’ advice, a prophetic dream, and revenge all coincide in a decisive defeat for the Persians.  How might the end of Cyrus relate to patterns of Mede and Persian rule evident throughout Book I?
9.  What is your favorite story of Book I?
After Book I, here is a basic outline of The Histories, book by book.  The first half of the Histories are very ethnographical and set the background for the second half, which focuses  on the Greek – Persian conflicts that have become part of our culture.
Basic outline, book by book:
{Books I – IV are the background for the Greek-Persian conflict}
Book I – Croesus, Cyrus
Book II – Egypt
Book III – Cambyses, Darius
Book IV – Scythia, Cyrene


{Books V – IX are the details of the Greek-Persian conflict}
Book V – Ionian Revolt
Book VI – Marathon
Book VII – Thermopylae
Book VIII – Salamis
Book IX – Plataea

06. September 2012 by astipanovic
Categories: Commentary, Herodotus, Study Questions | Comments Off on Look for the ‘history’