Herodotus Book 6 questions
Hi everyone, I just wanted to remind you about our call coming up Monday April 23 for Herodotus Book 6.
(5pm PT, 7pm CT)
1 800 615 2900
Also, I have come up with seven questions for us to chew on this week. Do any of them especially resonate with you? I would like to invite any volunteers to claim a question they would like to kick-off for that part of our discussion on Monday evening. Nothing formal, it is just a chance for you to take the ball and run with it for a few minutes. First come, first served. Just email me if you have a yearning for a particular question and a desire to share with us. Please feel free to submit your own question if there is one that you have a burning desire to ask. This is by no means a closed list! Thanks, Andre
Herodotus Book Six Discussion Questions
1. In Book VI, ch. 30 Histiaeus’ end at the hands of Artaphernes and Harpagus is related in gruesome but cursory fashion: “As soon as he reached Sardis he was impaled; his head was cut off, mummified, and sent to Darius in Susa” (p. 369). Just prior to this remark, Herodotus himself tells the reader that in his opinion “if after his capture he [Histiaeus] had been taken to Darius, he would not…have found himself in serious trouble, but Darius would have pardoned him” (369). 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. After the subjugation of the Ionian revolt by the Persians is complete (chs. 1-33) and before a more benign policy towards Ionia is implemented (ch. 42 on), Herodotus digresses on the Miltiades clan. Why? Are there reasons related to Book Six in itself? Are there reasons related to his narrative style throughout the Histories as a whole?
3. 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 is there “no need to pursue this subject further” (378)?
4. After the authority of the Spartan monarchy is challenged on Aegina, chs. 51-84 digress on the details of Spartan dual kingship. What sort of commentary is Herodotus making about Sparta? Monarchy in general? Mainland Greece at this time?
5. In ch. 84, Herodotus presents various views on the Spartan king Cleomenes’ madness and eventual death. After presenting the Argive and Spartan explanations, Herodotus claims: “my own opinion is that Cleomenes came to grief as retribution for what he did to Demaratus” (389). 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?
6. 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??
7. 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 Alcmaeonid treachery against Athens: “The tale of the Alcmaeonidae treacherously signalling to the Persians with the shield is, to me, quite extraordinary, and I cannot accept it” (404). He then goes on to elaborate on the Alcmaeonidae 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?