Books 2 & 3 Herodotus discussion questions
Greetings fellow Herodoteans!
How is the reading coming along? I know Book 2 can be almost encyclopedic, but I find it fascinating time and again to share Herodotus’ wonder with a civilization like the Egyptians that has been around longer for Herodotus than even the Greek culture has been around relative to us. This will sound funny, but if you are amazed at how much Herodotus is including about Egypt for us, just think of everything Herodotus is not including in this book about Egypt. At any rate, the narrative in Book 3 shifts back into “autocratic” gear as we hear about Camybses and Darius. Here are some questions for us to consider as we approach our May 5 discussion on Books 2 & 3. I hope some of you will accept a question to “kick off” our discussion. If any of these strike your fancy, please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these particular questions to help us develop our 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?