HERODOTUS: The History [Book I]

HERODOTUS: The History [Book I]

  • Herodotus’ History has been divided into nine books, each named after one of the muses. The first book is named after Clio, the muse of lyre playing. Her name is derived from a Greek root word meaning ‘to recount, make famous, or celebrate.’
  • The following bullet points provide a concise summary and can be found on Wikipedia. I have expanded upon the points where I thought additional information was required.
  • The rapes of Io, Europa, and Medea, which motivated Paris to abduct Helen. The subsequent Trojan War is marked as a precursor to later conflicts between peoples of Asia and Europe. (1.1–5)[3]
  • Colchis, Colchians and Medea. Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis and took Medea. (1.2.2–1.2.3)
  • The rulers of Lydia (on the west coast of modern Turkey): Candaules, Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, Croesus (1.6–7)
  • How Gyges took the kingdom from Candaules. After being compelled by Candaules to secretly see Candaules’ wife naked, the wife persuades Gyges to kill Candaules to avenge herself upon her husband. Candaules believed his wife was the most beautiful woman in the world, and desired Gyges to view here with his own eyes because men trust their ears less than their eyes. (1.8–13)
  • The singer Arion’s ride on the dolphin. He was the first man to compose and name the dithyramb – music associated with the cult of Dionysus. He hired a Corinthian crew to sail him to Italy, but the crew decided to take his money and kill him during the voyage. Arion convinced them to allow him to sing and then jump into the ocean to die. A dolphin carried him to an island; he returned to Corinth, and king Periander discovered the sailors’ deceit. (1.23–24)
  • Solon’s answer to Croesus’s question that Tellus was the happiest person in the world. Solon was a lawmaker of Athens who departed on a world tour in order to avoid being forced to repeal any of the laws he enacted in Athens; for Athenians swore to obey the laws of Solon for ten years unless he changed them. Solon visited Croesus in Sardis and told him that the happiest person in the world was Tellus because he was from a prosperous city, his sons were good and noble and had sons of their own, and he died gloriously in battle. The second most fortunate men were Cleobis and Biton who had won athletic prizes and piously conveyed their mother five miles in a wagon to the temple of Hera because the oxen had not come from the fields in time. Their mother asked Hera to bless her good children with the best thing for men since they had honored her and the goddess so well. Hera complied, granting the sons death in their sleep that very night. Solon tells Croesus that no man can be judged happy until he has died because life is subject to disaster. Men who enjoy fortune can be brought to ruin. (1.29–33)
  • Croesus’s efforts to protect his son Atys, his son’s accidental death by Adrastus. Croesus dreamed that his son would be killed by a spear of iron, so he withheld his son from war and took precautions to ensure that his son was safe. One day a suppliant named Adrastus arrived and asked Croesus for purification because he had accidentally killed his own brother. Croesus purified Adrastus and allowed him to stay in the court. At about the same time a boar ravaged the field of Croesus’ people. Croesus’ son persuaded Croesus to allow him to hunt the boar because he was not a jeaopardy of being killed by a spear, but rather tusks of a boar. During the hunt Adrastus, who was sent by Croseus to guard his son, threw his spear at the boar, but missed and killed Croesus’s son. Croesus was devastated when he heard the news of his son’s death. Adrastus pleaded with Croesus to kill him because he thought that he did not deserve to live. but Croesus took pity on Adrastus, and pardoned him. Adrastus committed suicide because he tconsidered himself to be the most afflicted person in the world. (1.34–44)
  • Croesus’s test of the oracles. He sent messengers to different oracles and asked them to tell the messengers what he himself was doing upon that day. The Delphic oracle responded correctly – he was boiling a turtle and lamb in a bronze cauldron with a bronze lid. The oracle of Amphiaraus also provided a satisfactory answer. Croesus sends messengers bearing gifts and sacrifices to the true oracles, and requests them to tell him whether he should undertake a war against the Persians.  (1.46–54)
  • The answer from the Oracle of Delphi concerning whether Croesus should attack the Persians (famous for its ambiguity): If you attack you will destroy a great empire. Croesus interprets this oracle as favorable to his intended enterprise. He also inquires of the oracles about the duration of his rule. The oracles respond that when the Medes have a mule for a king, Croesus should flee and not be ashamed to be a coward. Croesus interpreted this prophesy favorably too because he did not think a mule would ever rule the Medes. The oracles also advise him to make friends with the Doric Lacedaemonians and the Ionian Athenians.  (1.55–56)
  • Pisistratus’ rises and falls from power as tyrant of Athens. Pisistratus entered the city feigning injury. He requested the Athenians to provide him a body guard against his enemy factions of war. They provided him with clubmen, whom he used to seize the Acropolis and sovereignty of Athens. He ruled justly and upheld the established constitution. However, he was soon driven out by his rivals Megacles and Lycurgus. Then Megacles, harassed by the war, offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to Pisistratus along with control of Athens. Pisistratus accepted, and returned to aAthens with a woman nearly 6’4’’. Pisistratus convinced the Athenians that the woman was Athena herself. The Athenians worshipped the woman and welcomed Pisistratus back to Athens. Pisistratus married Megacles’ daughter, but did not want more children, so he had “unusual” intercourse with her. Megalces discovered this, and began to muster allies in preparation for war against Pisistratus because he had dishonored him. Pisistratus sought allies himself, returned to Athens 10 years later, and took the city for a third time.  (1.59–64)
  • The rise of Sparta. Lycurgus established the constitution, government, and daily life of the Spartans. The Spartans asked the Oracle of Delphi how they could defeat the Tegeans in war. The oracle replied that they needed to bring back the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, from Tegea. A Spartan named Lichas discovered that Orestes was buried near a blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith had told him that a coffin nearly 12 feet long was buried in the courtyard next to his shop. Lichas dug up Orestes’ remains, and brought them to Sparta. Ever since then, the Spartans were far superior to the Tegeans in battle, and had subdued most of the Peloponnese. (1.65–68)
  • The Battle of Halys; Thales predicts the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 B.C. The Lydians and Medes fought against each other after the Lydians refused to return Scythians who had killed the son of the king of the Medeans and served the corpse to him for supper. The two armies reconciled when they saw the eclipse. They swore an oath to cease hostilities by drawing blood from their own arms and allowing the other party to lick it.  (1.74)
  • The Lacedaemonians were feuding with the Argives over land called Thyrea during the war between Cyrus and Croesus. The Argive and Lacedaemonians decided to allow 300 of their best men fight each other while the rest of the two armies returned home to await news of the victorious party. Only three of the 600 soldiers survived the battle: Alcenor and Chromios of the Argives, and Othryades of the Lacedaemonians. The two Argives returned home, claiming victory while Othryades remained on the battle field and stripped the armor from his fallen enemies. The two armies returned and both argued that their side had won. They fought each other, and the Lacedaemonians were victorious. The Argives vowed to never wear their hair long again until they had recaptured the land from the Lacedaemonians. The Lacedaemonians vowed to wear their hair long ever after. Othryades was ashamed that he did not die with his comrades, so he killed himself on the battle field. (1.82)
  • Croesus’s defeat by Cyrus II of Persia, and how he later became Cyrus’s advisor. A man named Sandanis tried to dissuade Croesus from attacking the Persians. He told Croesus that the Persians have nothing in the way of earthly delights – no good food, no elaborate clothing, no wine, etc. If Croesus defeats the Persians, then he will deprive them of nothing. But if the Persians defeat Croesus, they will deprive Croesus of much, and nothing will be able to pry them away from the pleasues of life once they have tasted them. Croesus does not heed Sandanis’ advice. Croesus attacked the Persian because he anted to gain land and avenge Astyages, who had been captured by Cyrus in battle and was Croesus’ brother-in-law. After testing the strength of the two armies, Croesus returned to Cardis with the intent of mustering a larger force after the winter season, and then attacking the Persians again. However, Cyrus pursued Croesus to Sardis, and defeated him by using a tactic of placing camels in the front of his army. The camels frightened the horses of Croesus, forcing his soldiers to fight on foot. Cyrus ordered Croesus to be burned on a pyre with 14 other men. Croesus then realized the wisdom of Solon. After telling the Persians Solon’s words, Cyrus relented and ordered Croesus to be brought down alive from the pyre. The Persians could not extinguish the fire, but it e began to rain, and the rain extinguished the fire. Because of this, Cyrus believed the gods favored Croesus. Croesus became Cyrus’ advisor, first counseling him to not allow his soldiers to plunder the city lest one become powerful enough to overthrow Cyrus. Croesus sends messengers to the Delphic oracles. He desires to know whether they are ashamed for persuading him to pursue a disastrous enterprise against the Persians. The oracles reply that he misinterpreted their oracles, and that he is paying for the sin of his ancestor of the fifth generation before – Gyges. Cyrus was the mule of the prophecy who ruled the Medeans because he was born to a noble woman and inferior man.  (1.70–92)
  • The custom of the Lydians was to make their female children prostitutes. They were the first people to coin gold and silver currency, and the first to buy and sell in a retail market. When they were plagued by famine, they invented games to distract themselves from hunger. In this way, they played games such as dice, knuckle-bones, and ball for an entire day, and then searched for food the next. They continued this way of life for 18 years. But this did not ease their suffering. Thus, the king of the Lydians decided to divide the people into two groups by drawing lots. One group would remain in Lydia ruled by the king, and the other group would leave the country and be ruled by the king’s son. The group who left Lydia settled in northern and central Italy – Umbria. The group that remained was conquered and enslaved by the Persians. (1.94)
  • The rulers of the Medes: Deioces, Phraortes, Cyaxares, Astyages, Cyrus II of Persia (1.95–144)
  • The rise of Deioces over the Medes. Deioces desired sovereign power. He gained a reputation for being honest and just as a judge. Everyone depended upon him to be an impartial judge. When he saw that the people relied upon him, he stopped judging cases, stating that there was no advantage in it for him to sit and judge cases while neglecting his own personal affairs. Crime increased, so the people decide to be ruled by a king. They chose Deioces to be their king. They built him royal palaces and gave him a bodyguard. They also built a fortress composed of 7 concentric circles. He established the rule that no one should come in the presence of the king, but that all business should be conducted by messengers. He established this rule to make other people believe that he was different from them and therefore superior to them. Deioces ruled justly. He died in 656 BC after a 53 year reign, and left the kingdom to his son Phaortes. Phaortes was not content to rule just Medes. He conquered several Asian nations, but died while fighting the Assyrians after reigning for 22 years. Phaortes son Cyaxares succeeded him. Cyaxares possessed a great mind for war, arranging his troops in battle alignments for the first time in Asia. He conquered all of known Asia. He died after a reign of 40 years and left the throne to his son Astyages. (1.95-106)
  • Astyages’s attempt to destroy Cyrus, and Cyrus’s rise to power. Astyages had a dream that his daughter, Mandane, urinated so much that she flooded Asia. Astyages feared this portent so much that he married Mandane to a Persian named Cambyses, a man of much less rank than even a middle class Medean. Astyages had another dream that a vine grew out of Mandane’s genitals and covered all of Asia. He decided to kill whatever child she bore. Mandane gave birth to Cyrus. Atyages commanded his servant, Harpagus, to kill the infant Cyrus. Harpagus took Cyrus to his home and told his wife what Atyages commanded him to do. Neither he nor his wife desire to kill the infant. Harpagus reasoned that if he killed the baby, then when Astyages died and left the kingdom to his daughter, she would torture and kill him. Thus, he concluded to have one of Astyages’ other men kill the baby. He gave the infant to Mitradates, a slave-cowherd, with orders to kill the baby. Mitradates returns to his home with the baby. His wife had just given birth to a still-born. They decided to raise Cyrus and replace him with the still-born baby. When Cyrus was 10 years old, he was playing king with other boys his age. When one of the boys disobeyed Cyrus, he ordered the other boys to seize him and whip him. The boy was of noble birth, and when the boy told his father all that transpired, the father went to Astyages and demanded retribution. Cyrus was summoned to the court. He told Astyages that he had the boy whipped according to justice. Cyrus was assigned the place of king and justly whipped the boy who disobeyed him. Then he tells Astyages that if he deserves punishment, then he will accept it. Astyages noticed similarities in the boy’s face and mannerisms to his own. He dismissed everyone, promising the noble that he would avenge his son’s wrong. Then Astyages asked about the boy. The cowherd, under compulsion, told Astyages the truth. (1.107-116)
  • Harpagus tricked into eating his son, his revenge against Astyages by assisting Cyrus. Astyages was as angry with the cowherd as he was with Harpagus. He summoned Harpargus to him and told him what had transpired. Hiding his anger towards him, Astyages told Harpargus that he is happy at this fortunate incident because he regretted ordering the boy to be killed. He invites Harpargus and Harpargus’ son to dine with him. Harpargus sends his son of about 13 years of age to the palace. Astyages slit the boy’s throat, tore him limb from limb, and roasted and boiled some of the flesh, and kept it ready to serve at dinner. He served it to Harpagus at dinner, and asked him if he enjoyed it. Harpagus said that he did. Then, Astyages brought the boy’s head, hands, and feet to the table in a basket and gave it to Harpagus. Harpagus remained composed, and took the cooked meat and the body parts in the basket home with him. Astyages then consults the Magi about Cyrus. He believes that he has nothing to fear of Cyrus because the Cyrus was proclaimed king by the other boys. That might simply be what the dream prophesied. The Magi advise Astyages to send Cyrus back to his parents and the Persians. Cyrus returned to his parents and learned the truth about his ancestry. While he was in Persia, Harpagus sent him gifts in an attempt to gain favor with him, wishing to be avenged on Astyages. Harpagus persuaded chiefs of the Medes to make Cyrus their leader and depose Astyages. Harpagus concealed a message to Cyrus in the belly of a hare. The message informs Cyrus to depose Astyages, and that Harpagus has won Astyages’ own forces over to Cyrus. When they meet in battle, they will change allegiances. Cyrus musters Persian troops. He has them fight one day, and then feast the next. He asks them which is better. They unanimously reply that feasting is better. Cyrus promises them a life of luxury if they rebel against Astyages. The Persians gladly assented. The Persians conquered Astyages army, half of whom led by Harpagus deserted before the battle. Astyages was captured. Harpagus exulted over him. Astyages said that Harpagus was a fool for giving the throne to another when he could have taken it himself. He is also foolish for enslaving the Medes to the Persians, who were previously the slaves. Thus Astyages was deposed after a 35 year reign in 559 BC. Cyrus did him no further harm, and kept him in his house until Astyages died of natural causes.  (1.117- 130)
  • The culture of the Persians. They only sacrificed to the sky, sun, moon, earth, fire, water and winds. They thought that those who erected statues and temples were foolish. They did not believe that the gods are like humans. They sacrifice by bringing a beast into an open space. He prays that the king and all Persians be well because it is unlawful to pray for oneself. He then cuts the vicim into pieces, boils it, lays the meat on the grass, has a Magus chant the song of the birth of the gods over the meat, and then does whatever he pleases with the meat. Every man values his birthday. He serves a more abundant meal than on other days. They love dessert and wine. The Persians say that the Greeks rise from the table hungry because they do not have desserts placed before them. They deliberate about the gravest matters while drunk, and decide upon it when they are sober. The matters that they discuss while sober, they decide upon while drunk. When one man meets another of equal rank on the road, they kiss each other on the lips without speaking. If the difference of ranks is small, they kiss on the cheek. If the difference of rank is great, then the lower man bows. They honor most those who live nearest to them, next those who are next nearest, and so on, because they believe that they are themselves the best of all men. The Persians have many lawful wives and still more concubines. The man who fathers the most children is honored by the king. They believe that strength exists in numbers. They educate their boys from 5 to 20, and teach them only riding, archery, and honesty. The father does not see his son until he is five so that if the child dies, the father will not experience grief. All Persian names end in ‘s’. (1.131-140)
  • The history and geography of the Ionians, and the attacks on it by Harpagus. The Ionians sought peace with Cyrus. Cyrus responded with a story. The story is about a man who played a flute over a body of water, hoping that the fish would come onto the land. When the fish remained in the water, he cast a net and brought the fish to shore. Seeing the fish leaping, he told them not to dance. They did not come out and dance when he had played the flute for them before. In this way, Cyrus criticized the Ionians for refusing to aid him against Croesus before the battle, but after they discovered Cyrus had won, they sought an alliance with him. The Lacedaemonians sent a messenger to Cyrus to warn him that if he attacked any of the Greeks, then Sparta would punish him. Cyrus, upon hearing the number of Spartan soldiers, scoffed and said that he does not respect any society of people that have a market place where the people deceive each other; for Persians did not have market places.  (1.141-153)
  • Pactyes’ convinces the Lydians to revolt. Rebellion fails and he seeks refuge from Mazares in Cyme (Aeolis). Cyrus left Pactyes in charge of Sardis because he intended to lead an army against Babylon. Soon after Cyrus departed the city, Pactyes betrayed him, and encouraged the Lydians to revolt against Cyrus. Croesus advises Cyrus to punish Pactyes but spare Lydia, and command the people to teach their children the lyre, dance, and shop-keeping in order to make them womanish and unwilling to revolt in the future. Cyrus orders Mazares to carry out his orders and bring Pactyes alive before him. Pactyes fled to Cyme. Manzares demanded the return of Pactyes from Cyme, but Aristodicus persuaded the Cymeans not to give Pactyes to the Persians, but finally he was handed over to the Persians. When Mazares died, Harpagus succeeded him and began to attack and seize Ionian cities. Citizens from two of the cities fled, the other cities were defeated. When Harpagus led his army to the plain of Xanthus, the Lycians came out to meet him despite the overwhelming number of Harpagus’ army. Being driven back into their city, the Lycians gathered their children and women into the acropolis, burnt it to the ground, and then exited the city and fought Harpagus until none of them were left.  (1.154-177)
  • The culture of Assyria, especially the design and improvement of the city of Babylon and the ways of its people. Babylon lies in a plain; it is square, each side 15 miles in length. A moat and an 83 foot-thick, 333 foot-high wall surround the city. The city is divided in half by the Euphrates River. One of the city’s female rulers constructed a removable bridge of large logs that were removed during the night lest one side of the city steal from another. She also constructed her own tomb above one of the gates with an inscription on it that invited anyone to open the tomb and retrieve the riches therein, but that they would rue doing so. The Persian leader Darius opened the tomb and discovered no riches inside, but only another message that said: if you were satisfied with what you have, then you would not need to open the coffins of the dead and disgrace yourself in seeking more.  (1.178-187)
  • Cyrus’s attack on Babylon, including his revenge on the river Gyndes and his famous method for entering the city. When Cyrus is on a campaign, he travels with much food and a store of water from the river Choaspes, the only river from which he drank. When he tried to cross the Gyndes River, one of his sacred white horses was swept downstream and killed. To avenge the death of his horse, Cyrus dug 360 canals that weakened the force of the Gyndes so that women could cross it without wetting their knees. After crossing the Gyndes he besieged Babylon. He weakened the Euphrates by digging mor canals, and ordered his army to enter the city by the river running through the middle of it. Cyrus conquered Babylon, which supplied him with 1/3 of all his wealth and revenue in the future. Every Babylonian carries a staff with an image on it – an apple, eagle, etc. once a year in every village, women who had attained marriageable age gathered in a market place. Men would bid for the girls that they would make their wives. This practice has been discontinued. After the sack of the city, many families became very poor, and every one of the families that lacks a livelihood prostitutes their daughters. They place their sick in the middle of the market place where everyone who has suffered from the same disease must comfort the sick person and advise them how to overcome the disease. Whenever a Bayblonian has intercourse with his wife, they both sit before a burnt offering and wash themselves at dawn; they touch no vessel before this is done. They have a custom that requires every woman to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with a stranger once in their life. Some tribes within the country eat nothing but fish.  (1.188-200)
  • Cyrus’s ill-fated attack on the Massagetæ, leading to his death. Cyrus first sent a message to the Queen of Massagetae, Tomyris. He desired to marry her. Tomyris knew that he simply wanted the kingdom and rejected his advances. Cyrus decided to cross the river and attack the country. Cyrus receives a dream that Darius, the son of Hystaspes, will be king of Persia and Europe and is planning a revolt. Cyrus tells Hystaspes to return home and make sure that when Cyrus returns after the battle, Darius is waiting for him to be questioned. According to Croesus’ advice, Cyrus left a useless band of his army feasting near the enemy. The enemy killed Cyrus’ men and banqueted themselves, afterwards falling asleep. Then Cyrus attacked them and captured Tomyris’ son. Tomyris demands the return of her son or she will punish Cyrus. Cyrus dismissed her plea, but when her son awoke and requested Cyrus to free him, he complied. The son then killed himself. Cyrus and the greater part of the Persian army were destroyed in the subsequent battle. Tomyris filled a skin with human blood and put Cyrus’ head into it, thus fulfilling her promise to give him his share of blood. The people of Massagetae married one wife but the women were held in common; any man could have intercourse with any woman he wished. They ate only livestock and fish. They worshipped only the sun, and sacrificed horses to it because the sun is the swiftest of gods and horses are the swiftest of mortal things. They only drink milk. The happiest death is one where the family kills an old person and eats him. The sick are not eaten, but buried in the ground and lamented that they did not live long enough to be killed and eaten.  (1.201-216)

“It is unjust to carry women off. But to be anxious to avenge rape is foolish: wise men take no notice of such things. For plainly the women would never have been carried away, had they not wanted it themselves.”

“Many states that were once great have now become small; and those that were great in my time were small before. Human prosperity never continues in the same place.”

“Men trust their ears less than their eyes.”

“The god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live.”

“The divine is entirely grudging and troublesome to us. In a long span of time it is possible to see many things that you do not want to, and to suffer them, too. Man is entirely chance. Not one day is entirely the same as another.”

“But it is not you that I hold the cause of this evil, except in so far as you were the unwilling doer of it, but one of the gods, the same one who told me long ago what was to be.”

“He relented and considered that he, a human being, was burning alive another human being, one his equal in good fortune. In addition, he feared retribution, reflecting how there is nothing stable in human affairs.”

“No one is so foolish as to choose war over peace. In peace sons bury their fathers, in war fathers bury their sons.”

“No one may escape his lot, not even a god.”

“I myself was born by divine chance to undertake this work.”

“Order them to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and shop-keeping. And quickly, O king, you shall see them become women instead of men, so that you need not fear them, that they might revolt.”

“Men’s fortunes are on a wheel, which in its turning does not allow the same man to prosper forever.”

“Now for their customs: each man marries a wife, but the wives are common to all. The Greeks say this is a Scythian custom; it is not, but a custom of the Massagetae. There, when a man desires a woman, he hangs his quiver before her wagon, and has intercourse with her without fear. [2] Though they fix no certain term to life, yet when a man is very old all his family meet together and kill him, with beasts of the flock besides, then boil the flesh and feast on it. [3] This is held to be the happiest death; when a man dies of an illness, they do not eat him, but bury him in the earth, and lament that he did not live to be killed. They never plant seed; their fare is their livestock and the fish which they take in abundance from the Araxes. [4] Their drink is milk. The sun is the only god whom they worship; they sacrifice horses to him; the reasoning is that he is the swiftest of the gods, and therefore they give him the swiftest of mortal things.”

Herodotus wrote this history so that the great deeds done by the Greeks and Persians would not be forgotten and lose their glory. He also aimed to explain the cause of the wars between the Greeks and Persians.

The seizure of their women did not anger the Persians. Their hatred for the Greeks was aroused when the Greeks defeated Troy in the Trojan War.

Prosperity never continues in the same place. States that were great in the past have become small, and states that were small have become great. Nothing remains the same.

“Men trust their ears less than their eyes.” This sentiment is similar to the one expressed in the ancient Greek tragedies – the notion that one must suffer or experience to learn. Seeing something implies experience, while one can hear of an account of the Trojan War but not truly know the nature of the war.

Cleobis and Biton’s mother asked Hera to bless her children with the best thing for man because they had conveyed her five miles to the temple. Hera complied with her wish, granting the boy’s death. “The god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live.”

Refrain from making a judgment about the happiness of a man’s life until you have seen its conclusion; for wealthy man are only more fortunate than lucky men in two ways – they can support themselves better if a disaster befalls them and they can satisfy their appetites – but the lucky man who is poor avoids these disasters and insatiable appetites anyway. But no man should be called happy until he has died because life is full of change, reversals, and misery; the gods promise fortune to many men, only to ruin them later in life.

Croesus pitied and forgave Adrastus, who accidentally killed his son during a boar hunt. This level of forgiveness was particularly striking after reading the revenge plot of the Oresteia. Croesus does not blame Adrastus, whom he considers to be an unwilling doer of the evil, but rather the gods. Croesus does not attempt to avenge his son’s death upon the gods, but it is interesting to consider the possible ways he could achieve this aim if he chose to pursue it.

Othryades, the lone Spartan remaining after the battle of Thyrea, killed himself because he was ashamed that he had not died with his comrades. The ancient Greeks valued honor above everything. They believed that the greatest honor that could be won is to be remembered for dying gloriously in war. Othryades likely felt cheated of this honor, and tried to salvage his remaining dignity by killing himself. This type of thought process is entirely different than a modern man would expect of Othryades. A modern psychologist would almost certainly conclude that Othryades suffered from PTSD and survivor’s guilt.

When Croesus told the Persians the wisdom of Solon, Cyrus decided not to burn Croesus on a pyre. Cyrus realized that Croesus was a human being like himself. He feared retribution and considered that nothing is immutable in human affairs.

Croesus advises Cyrus to order the Lydians to teach their children the lyre, how to dance, and business in order to make the men womanish and unlikely to revolt. It is interesting to note that there are two possible ways of managing threats to power: 1) by physical intimidation and punishment; and 2) by manipulating the thoughts and behaviors of people so that they are unwilling to revolt. These two methods are illustrated in 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

A Cadmean victory is a victory where the victor and vanquished suffer alike. This term was coined from the battle between Oedipus’ sons, Polyneices and Eteocles. They were descendants of Cadmus.

The Lycians of Xanthus, when faced with the overwhelming number of Persian forces, gathered their women, children, and slaves into their acropolis and burnt them to death. Then they exited their city on a suicide mission against Harpagus. This was an extraordinary display of defiance in the face of Death. They did not feel a sense of defeat when they considered that they would soon be overrun by the Persian forces. They felt a sense of defiance to the very end.

The Histories, Revised (Penguin Classics)


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