Herodotus

 

Question: Herodotus was born in the city of Halicarnassus (in modern Turkey), a tributary of the Persians. But in his adult life (second half of the fifth century BCE), he spent a considerable amount of time in the city of Athens, and Athenian democratic ideology shaped various parts of the narrative of his Histories. In his Histories, Herodotus describes the customs of various Near Eastern societies and Greek communities, narrates the rise of the Persian empire, and describes the two major Persian invasions of the Greek mainland. His work famously conveys how Greeks conceived of their society as politically, culturally, and ethically different from those of the Near East (even while it at times indicates that some of these differences are more imagined than real).

Consider Herodotus’ treatment of the Lydian king Croesus and the Persian king Xerxes I, especially as demonstrated by their conversations with notable Greeks or with their chief advisors. In what ways do Greeks distinguish themselves from Near Eastern societies in Herodotus’ account?

Your response should reflect consideration of the following issues:

a. The rise of the Greek polis and citizen values

b. the significance of culture and cultural difference for social or ethnic identities

c. the ideological implications of historical memories and the composition of history

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