The Power of Fate vs. The Power of the GodsEdit

Greek 3fates

Moirae (Greek Fates)

  • If you want to approach the topic of why Croesus ended up losing to Cyrus in a distinctly Herodotean way -- to understand and explain it through a Herodotean lens -- then you should believe in fate and destiny. After Gyges ended the Heraclids' reign in Lydia, the oracle of Delphi gave word of a prophecy that said, "The Heraclids would be avenged in the fifth generation from Gyges." (On the War for Freedom) Croesus was destined to have something bad befall him before he was born. Instead of taking precaution and heeding the warning from the oracle, "the prophecy was disregarded by the Lydians and their kings until it was fulfilled." (On the War for Freedom) Just before Croesus went to war with Cyrus, he asked for a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi. He was told that he would destroy a great empire. However, because the prophecy about the Heraclids being avenged in the fifth generation (Croesus) was ignored, Croesus did not think twice about attacking Cyrus and the Persians. Croesus' failure to remember the original prophecy from Delphi clouded his judgement when attempting to interpret the prophecy about destroying a great empire. Instead of defeating Cyrus as Croesus thought he would, he destroyed his own great empire. What makes this story even more interesting is that not even the gods could change destiny. According to Herodotus, Apollo tried to change the Oracle's initial prophecy of the Heraclids being avenged in the fifth generation from Gyges to the sixth generation. Are the fates more powerful than the gods? According to Herodotus, fate is predestined and cannot be changed, even by the gods. Relating that thought to present day events, that would mean that every natural disaster and war that ever happened was "meant to be." His argument to those who do not believe in God's (general) power would be that not even God can change destiny. However, if that is true, wouldn't that mean that he is not all powerful? Pearlmanspencer 15:09, March 30, 2011 (UTC)
  • Thanks, Spencer--someone has to go first! So I will use this post to pass on some general tips for everyone. "If you want to approach the topic of why Croesus ended up losing to Cyrus in a distinctly Herodotean way..." You are looking to write on what a Herodotean approach might be to a certain type of situation. So "why Croesus lost" is way too specific. Instead, something like military defeat in general, or military defeat in a certain kind of circumstances. Remember that you are looking to express this as a general rule, so the word "Croesus" should not keep showing up. Name something that seems to constitute a "Herodotean angle" on the events of history. This should be something that could be applied to some other situation (and you are encouraged to think of a non-ancient example). Then show with a single good example from the text what you saw in this particular case that backs up your generalization about a possible authorial point of view. I believe this can be done effectively in significantly less space than this first example, if you keep it appropriately focus. Wareh 00:49, March 31, 2011 (UTC)

Changing LeadersEdit

  • In order to understand in a distinctly Herodotean way the reasons why political power shifted so frequently and violently in these histories, it is important to understand the dynamic between the Gods and mortals that Herodotus emphasizes. A recurring theme throughout his stories is that when one group of people becomes too powerful or tries to seek too much control, their prosperity never lasts because the gods will intervene in order to maintain balance and order and to put the mortals in their place. According to Herotdotus, this change, no matter how gradual, is inevitable at the hands of the gods. However, he also points out that it is the rash and selfish choices that men make that compel the gods to intervene and level out the power, not the other way around. When Croesus takes the Oracle of Delphi's ambiguous prophecy as a sign that he should invade Persia, he mistakenly fulfills the prophecy that a great empire would fall - except that it was his own, because he did not consider the other possible interpretations but rather interpreted what he wanted to hear. After his city is conquered by Cyrus, he sent for another message from the oracle inquiring if it was "usual (he bid them ask) for the gods to be so ungrateful." The oracle explained that he had not understood its prophecies, and that he was himself to blame (Herodotus 1.90-1.91). Herodotus makes sure detail the relationship between Cyrus and Croesus after this, probably to demonstrate to the reader how important his central theme is to real life. Cyrus is moved by Croesus' speech before he is to die, and "the thought of retribution, and the realization of the instability of the human condition persuaded him to order his men to extinguish the fire as quickly as possible and to bring Croesus and those with him safely down." (Herodotus 1.86) When Cyrus is preparing to conquer the Massagatae, Croesus warns Cyrus that "there is a cycle in human affairs that does not permit the same people to enjoy unbroken good fortune." (Herodotus 1.207) The dialogues between Cyrus and Croesus serve more as a way to reinforce Herodotus' advice about the nature of power and politics than as actual historical canon. Aglids 17:20, March 31, 2011 (UTC) [posted on 3/30 but signed 3/31 TW] —Preceding unsigned comment added by Aglids (talkcontribs) (On The War for Freedom)

Validity of Certain StoriesEdit

  • In order to tell a history in a Herodotean way, one must not exclude any story that pertains to the topic. No matter how farfetched or how it may seem like a tall tale, every story pertaining to the event must be told. Modern Historians may mention things like this or speculate their validity, but usually indicate a level of absurdity in one way or another. Herodotus, however, tells these stories as if they are absolute truths. He has them affect his history and play a major role in the outcome of the people and civilizations as a whole. In one instance, writing about the alliance between Amasis and Polycrates, Herodotus tells that Amasis wants to break the alliance because, in short, Polycrates has never been ill fortuned. Amasis says that he knows how jealous the gods are, and that he wishes for he and his people to live a life with alternating good and bad fortune because he has " never heard of any man who, after enjoying continuous good fortune, did not in the end meet with utter disaster" (3.40) Amasis tells Polycrates to throw out his most prized posession to cause himself grief so they can stay allies. He did as told and threw his favorite ring into the ocean. Later, a fisherman brings Polycrates a fish as a gift, but the fish had swallowed his ring. Amsis realized then that it was impossible to stop a man from meeting his fate and broke the alliance for good. This story, today, would never be taken seriously. It would definitely not be put in a history text as fact. Stories like these are meant to send a message and are almost proverbial. These stories, however, do make up a great deal of Ancient culture. As we know myths and legends were a large part of their pagan religion and theories about how things began (life, cities, rivalries etc). Diestelt 04:03, April 5, 2011 (UTC) (On The War for Freedom)

Intervening by ProxyEdit

  • In order to understand history in a Herodotean way, it is essential to take into consideration the impact that the divine and gods play in the decision making process of many tyrants and leaders. Herodotus continuously acknowledges that decisions are being made with the belief that there is a divine figure telling them to do so or there has been a divine sign to persuade the decision. Modern day historians may focus rather on the decision that has been made and its outcome rather than the motivation behind the decision. Herodotus, in numerous occasions, will go into in depth stories that explains the reasoning behind these decision motivated by the divine power or gods. Darius’s final expedition t o conquer Babylon is one key example of this. Herodotus tells a story of Darius and his army being ridiculed by the Babylonians, saying “when mules give birth, that’s when you will capture our city” (3.151). Later the news is heard that a mule has given birth. Herodotus explains that many believe this “must surely be a divine sign,” (3.153) This eventually will lead to a scheme that results in the downfall of Babylon, which had proven to be a large challenge for Darius and his forces. Zopyrus’s scheme would have been explained by the historians today, but they may have left out this divine symbol which inevitably led to Babylon’s fall. Although today these stories may be uncommon today, they consist of a large part of Herodotus’ stories and ancient history. Stuarts 21:44, April 5, 2011 (UTC) (On The War for Freedom)

Herodotean KarmaEdit

  • To comprehend extraordinary occurrences from the perspective of the Greek historian Herodotus, one must simply contemplate the concept of karma. Whether heroic or villainous in nature, Herodotus’ characters always get what they deserve. Interestingly Herodotus’ stories read with relative indifference; he does not openly differentiate tyrannical monsters from virtuous do-gooders, nor does he articulate vicious punishments and unrealistic happily-ever-after scenarios. Instead, Herodotus preserves the historical facts, as well as significant plot points of mythology, but frequently concludes with details alluding to a karmic resolution. For example, in his retelling of the near death experience of the famous lyrist Arion, Herodotus concludes by referencing a historical artifact resembling Arion riding a dolphin. Despite the abundance of observable ancient pieces only a few are mentioned in his writing, this one because it indicates Arion did survive his victimization. Today the concept of karma is still widely discussed and has been adopted by many religions. In fact the concept originates after the death of Herodotus; however, the ideals he expresses are concisely summarized with this modern terminology. Herodotus uses this idea to explain astonishing happenings such as being saved by a dolphin. Today with a multibillion global populace, many such experiences are recorded frequently. For example, Nathan King survived a puncture wound to his heart in the year 2000. Macminnd 20:00, April 6, 2011 (UTC) (On The War for Freedom)
  • In general, I'd suggest aiming for more specificity, a closer focus on details. Karma is a very big idea (though of course it is absolutely important in Herodotus!). One reason I ask you to think by analogy to movie-making is in the hope you'll pay closer attention to the technique (the "lighting," "camera angles," etc.). That is to say, if you want to write about karma, give yourself the job of saying how Herodotus presents karmic consequences, rather than the job of explaining that he does. Formally, the only shortcoming here is that it does not have a "specific quotation" (to quote the syllabus). It has a specific reference to the Arion story. By asking you to quote Herodotus' actual words my hope is, again, that you may develop in more detail how and why Herodotus' style/wording/tone/etc. serve those big ideas like karma. Wareh 18:44, April 8, 2011 (UTC)