Herodotus Book I Discussion Questions
Dear Herodotus readers,
Please feel free to use these questions to guide your reading of Book I. We will use them to initiate our next discussion and conference call.
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?