Herodotus Book 7 Questions to ponder
I hope you are enjoying Book 7 as much as I am. I am sure that we will be referring to the current movie “300” at some point, but in addition I have put together some more historical questions for us to ponder for our next conference call on Monday May 14. Please feel free as always to air your thoughts or add any other questions for us to consider through our ro2 listserv before May 14.
The decision for the Persians to invade Greece is a highly significant one. Starting in 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 Mardonius’ reasons any stronger? Why or why not?
In chapters 27-29, Pythius voluntarily offers Xerxes a great amount of resources to help the war effort. Xerxes appreciates the offer, but becomes angry at Pythius 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 Artabanus have a dialogue that begins with the ‘sadness in life’ (chs.46-52). Both Xerxes and Artabanus have differing views on this and on the coming invasion of Greece. How does Xerxes justify his position vis-a-vis Artabanus? Given the situation and regardless of the outcome, do either Xerxes or Artabanus 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 Demaratus’ 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?