Study Questions for Final Herodotus Call – Books 8 & 9
I hope your summer is coming to a successful close. I am back in the classroom, kicking off another school year with my Latin students, and enlightening them with the wisdom of Herodotus from time to time. I just wanted to remind everyone about our next call:
1-866-628-8620 112431# Mon Sept 8 @ 8pm ET
and I wanted to offer these Questions for Books 8 & 9 to you as you finish reading Herodotus. Herodotus really hits his stride here. His style in Book 7 is extended in Books 8 & 9 (albeit still with his curious digressions), but I think his writing style improves even more. A great ending to a great book! Sincerely, Andre
1. In Book 8.40-65, Herodotus narrates the momentous conference of Greek leaders – the Salamis conference – as they debate whether to fight the Persians at sea near Salamis, or to defend the Peloponnese at the Isthmus of Corinth, a natural defense. Has Herodotus embellished the decision to fight at Salamis in view of the victory? What of the role of Themistocles and his tricks?
1a. Themistocles later sends another message to Xerxes. Some of this writing by Herodotus may be more commentary on the Peloponnesian wars than on the Persian Wars. Do you see that? What does Strassler think? How does the conflict between Athens and Sparta influence Herodotus’ writings of the earlier Persian Wars?
1b. Regarding references to the Peloponnesian wars, the chapter ends with the Spartans urging the Athenians not to seek treaty with Xerxes. They say: “Again, it would be an intolerable thing that the Athenians, who in the past have been known so often as liberators, should now be the cause of bringing slavery to Greece.” (8.142.3; page 661). By the time of the Peloponnesian wars, Athens was seen as a leading democracy that enslaved its empire – supporting freedom for its citizens and slavery for its possessions.
1c. Note: further reference and irony related to this aforementioned quote in Herodotus comes from the fact that the Spartans later make an alliance with the Persians against Athens – and that Persian support plays a critical role in the Spartan victory against Athens.
2. In the debate that Xerxes and his councilors have about the impending naval battle at Salamis, Xerxes seeks the opinion of Artemisia – a “wise advisor” and the only woman naval commander and combatant that is referenced. Her advice to Xerxes is not to hurry – that he can win if “you keep your ships near land, or even if you advance to the Peloponnese” (8.68.b). She also goes on to observe a key leadership fact: “bad slaves tend to belong to good people, while good slaves belong to bad people” (8.68.g) What does she mean by that? Do we agree? What do we think of the role of women in Herodotus and of this woman in particular?
3. Given Xerxes’ stubbornness and dedication to invading Greece, why does he flee after the loss at Salamis? Does his earlier initial hesitation to invade come back to haunt him? Does he remember his dreams? Why does he now seem to follow the advice of his wise advisors Artemisia and Artabanus?
4. In one of the most astounding reversals in military history, the Battle of Plataea (book 9) resulted in a resounding Greek victory. What is the interplay between Athens and Sparta in the events leading up to this battle? How had the battle affected relations afterwards between Athens and Sparta? What can Herodotus tell us about the Greek city-states in general at this time before his Histories abruptly end?
4a. Note: Plataea, the site of Greek united victory in the Persian Wars, plays a tragic role in the Peloponnesian wars – remember, this war between Athens and Sparta had likely begun by the time Herodotus was finishing his book.